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I recently had the honour of interviewing Sidi Abdul Aziz Suraqah, an inspiring translator, editor and educator, currently based in Toronto (Canada), who has translated some of the best available Classical Islamic text out there from Arabic to English. Moreover, he is famously known for his fantastic website and blog: Ibriz Media.

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(The interview below has been checked and approved by Sidi Abdul Aziz Suraqah, and I am publishing this after his consent)

Sidra: Please could you share a bit about yourself?

 IMG_20150813_210317Abdul Aziz : My name is Abdul Aziz Suraqah. I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. During the golden age of Hip Hop, when I was 14 years old, I was inspired by groups like Public Enemy and KRS One to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. That led to an interest in Islam, and so after reading a translation of the Quran I embraced Islam, al-Hamdulillah.  A couple of years later I began to study Arabic and soon thereafter pursued further studies in Yemen, Mauritania, and Morocco. I currently teach at Dar al-Ma’rifah and Risalah Foundation here in Toronto, Canada. And since 2007 I’ve been translating Islamic texts full time. The name of my service is Ibriz Media.

Sidra: What inspired you to become a translator?

Abdul Aziz : It all came about quite accidentally I must admit. Upon returning the US and becoming a teacher at a private Islamic school, I found myself translating things here and there to go along with the class material for the students. There were also certain smaller texts that at the time seemed worthwhile to translate, so in 2002 or so I began working on them (some of them were completed and others were shelved—which is for the best, as the first attempts were all cringe worthy :)).

There’s this expectation among many people that a returning “student of knowledge” will be, or should be, in the community delivering talks, lectures, engaging with the people, etc. That’s perhaps true for many who return to the west after studying Islamic sciences overseas, but as an introvert that’s terrifying. And besides, I never really considered myself a “student of knowledge” so to speak. The question for me early on after returning from my formal studies was: how do I take my passion for the Islamic sciences and contribute and serve in a way that best fits my introverted nature?

Teaching small groups of teenagers and young adults has been very fulfilling, but the answer to that question didn’t become clear till 2006 or so, when I was blessed with the opportunity to translate selections from various classical and contemporary works that deal with Islamic spirituality, theology, etc. Those samples were put up on www.marifah.net and are still available today. A year or so after working with www.marifah.net, the brother running the site, Sidi Hamoudeh, founded Sunni Publications and asked me to co-translate and edit Shaykh Ramadan al-Bouti’s Al-La Madhhabiyya:Abandoning the Madhhabs. After that he asked me translate full-time for Sunni Publications, and so I began working daily—sometimes up to 12 hours a day—on Shaykh Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki’sNotions That Must Be Corrected. After a while I had found a flow and continued working non-stop, five days a week, from home (wearing regular clothes, not pajamas :)).

Al-Hamdulillah, it really is a great blessing to translate traditional Islamic texts—to wake up in the morning and spend hours alone with the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), the Companions (Allah be pleased with them), and the saints and savants of this Umma, and hopefully convey some of those meanings for the benefit of others.

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Sidra: Please could you tell us about some of the books you have translated?

 Abdul Aziz : They are exclusively in the field of Islamic studies, particularly books on Islamic spirituality, theology, and prophetology. Most of the titles I’ve been blessed to work are found on my portfolio page at Ibriz Media.

Sidra: What books have most influenced your life most?

Abdul Aziz : With regard to books on Islamic subjects, I’d start with The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as that was my first exposure to Islam and what led me to become a Muslim. After that, the most influential books for me were Imam al-Ghazali’s al-Munqidh min al-dalal (Deliverance from Error), Ibn ‘Ata’illah’s al-Tanwir fi isqat al-tadbir(Illumination in Dropping Self-direction), Shaykh Ahmad b. Mubarak al-Lamati’s al-Ibriz (Pure Gold from the Words of My Master ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Dabbagh), Shaykh Muhammad al-Qandusi’s Sharab Ahl al-Safa (The Drink of the People of Purity), Shaykh Yusuf al-Nabahani’s Jawahir al-bihar, Emir ‘Abd al-Qadir’s al-Mawaqif, Gai Eaton’s King of the Castle, and virtually everything written by my two favorite authors, Imam ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha’rani (his al-‘Uhud al-Muhammadiyya is my favorite) and Sidi Ahmad Ibn ‘Ajiba.

lamadhabiyyaAs for books that are not explicitly Islamic, some of the most influential for me have been Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Rene Guenon’s Crisis of the Modern World and The Reign of Quantity, Weston A Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Paul Chek’s How to Eat, Move, and Be Healthy, Robert Greene’s Mastery, and Charles Moss’ Power of the Five Elements.

Sidra: What are your current projects?

Abdul Aziz : Right now I’m working on Sidi Ahmad Ibn ‘Ajiba’s tafsir of Sura Maryam, Shaykh Salih al-Din al-Tijani’s collection of spiritual discourses and aphorisms called al-Tanazzulat al-Ilahiyya (Divine Inspirations), and Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi’s Takmil al-nu’ut fi luzum al-buyut, whose title will probably by paraphrased in English as The Virtues of Isolation in Times Tribulation, or The Virtues of Seclusion in Times of Confusion—it’s a small work on the virtues of keeping to one’s self in times of fitna.

Besides these three books, there are a number of other projects going on, either in their beginning stages or final editorial stages, so an average day for me consists of translating new material for two, sometimes three books, editing finished works, and researching.

Sidra: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Abdul Aziz : The most challenging thing in translating Islamic literature, for me at least, is maintaining a good intention and upholding adab in the entire process from beginning to end. It’s not always easy to translate these incredibly profound spiritual or theological works day in and day out—it’s hard to be “on” and in the moment with the texts every single day. When I experience constriction (qabd) or a mental block or setback, I’ll work on less intensive projects or even pull back for a day or two and double up when my energy returns.

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For example, one of the translations recently published, Sidi Ahmad Ibn ‘Ajiba’s explanation of the meanings of the Ninety-nine Divine Names, was simply too overwhelming to translate all at once. The sheer majesty (jalal) of the meaning of the Divine Names became very difficult to bear and I had to limit how much of it I worked on each day. Translation of Islamic texts on spirituality are particularly difficult since they shine a light into the darkest corners of the soul and show you how far you are from what they describe.

From a technical perspective, the biggest challenge is striking a balance between fidelity to the source language, i.e., the original words of the author, and readability in the target language. It’s incredibly challenging and there are several possibilities to choose from, so the first rule I try to observe is “Do no harm.”

Sidra: What are the most rewarding elements of translating a book?

Abdul Aziz : By far the most rewarding element of translating is when the book brings you into a spiritual state where you are so engrossed in the content that you lose sight of the ink, the pages, the daily word count, and you feel as if you are in the presence of the author, or better yet spiritually uplifted by his or her words. The best example of this for me was when translating Shaykh Muhammad al-Qandusi’s The Drink of the People of Purity. My family and I were packing our things and moving to a new apartment when it was being translated, but I still put in 12 hours for many days working on it—but it never felt like more than 4 hours. Opening The Drink and translating it entered me into a spiritual time warp of sorts, and the content of the book was so uplifting I wished it never ended.

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It’s also very touching to meet someone who says they benefitted from a book I’ve translated. Translation work is lonely and most translators don’t get to hear back from readers, so when we do hear that someone has enjoyed or benefitted from our work it makes all the efforts worthwhile, al-Hamdulillah. The best feedback I’ve received was from a friend who read The Drink of the People of Purity and saw the author Shaykh Muhammad al-Qandusi in a dream. Here is what he said:

I fell asleep reading The Drink of The People of Purity. As soon as I fell asleep, I found myself at Bab al-Futuh [a large cemetery in Fez, Morocco in which lie thousands of saints and scholars] in front of the Maqam of Sayyidna Abdul Aziz al-Dabbagh. At the Maqam, I found an old man sitting with his back resting on the outer left wall of the Maqam. I walked to the man and asked him to make du’a for my affairs. He raised his head and said, “What more is there to give you after my book?” I was puzzled and then I asked him, “Are you Shaykh Muhammad al-Qandusi?” The man replied with a very intense stare, “I am him but he is not I. He knows where I am.” I lowered my gaze and begged for du’a. He said, “Do not wait to drink until you are overcome with thirst. Drink! And always stay hydrated.” He then said “If you don’t know what I mean then ask my Translator.” After he said this, His Jalal [majesty] immediately turned into Jamal [beauty] with a radiant smile. I kissed his forehead and woke up.

Sidra: Can you give us some examples of a word or phrase that just doesn’t translate well?

Abdul Aziz : Let’s see. Taqwa comes up a lot and there doesn’t seem to be good translation of it that is accurate and a single word. You’ll see renderings such as Godfearingness (my preferred choice when it is not used in a different context), mindfulness (a nice sounding translation but still a bit opaque), God-consciousness, and even fear.

When translating Shaykh Yusuf al-Nabahani’s Wasa’il al-wusul (Muhammad: His Character and Beauty) I had to wrestle with an oft-used word pair, mudarat and mudahana. Mudarat is defined as “the sacrifice of a worldly interest in order to attain either a worldly or a religious benefit, or both together,” so after much mental wrangling I settled on the word sociability. The other word, mudahana, literally means lubricity (yeah, that’s a word). It is defined as “the sacrifice of one’s religion for the sake of attaining a worldly benefit.” (Bajuri) The late translator Muhtar Holland (Allah have mercy upon him) translated it is “fawning flattery.” That’s a sound translation, but after consultation with some teachers I decided to translate it as sycophancy. 
In Arabic there are many phrases that are hard to turn around into English. Sometimes the original flow is lost in order to preserve the structure of the target language; but over the years translators develop a repertoire of maneuvers and turns of phrase that get them out of tight spots.

Sidra: Which book past or present, do you imagine was the most difficult to translate?

Abdul Aziz : No need to imagine that one! The most difficult translation by far was Shaykh Sa’id Foudah’s A Refined Explanation on the Sanusi Creed. That project cost me blood, sweat, and tears (the latter two literally!) It’s an intthe-sanusi-creedermediate text in classical Sunni-Ash’ari theology detailing the textual and rational proofs for the tenets of faith. What made the project so challenging was the footnotes, as Shaykh Sa’id was quoting from earlier theologians who are known to use a very tightly packed style of speech where detailed meanings are crammed into terse phrases. It’s no exaggeration to say that unpacking those into clear English was at times terrifying. This is theology after all; who wants to mistranslate something about belief in Allah and His Messengers and unknowingly mislead innocent readers? Ya Latif!

Sidra: How long does it take you to translate a book roughly? 

Abdul Aziz : It all depends on the nature of the book, the time period in which it was written, the size, etc. For a book in Arabic that is, say, 100 pages with average sized font, it can take anywhere from a month to two months to translate it provided it’s the only thing I’m working on. But that doesn’t factor in all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into preparing a book for publication: self-edits, research, copy editing, typesetting, proofreading, etc. It usually takes 18 months or more for a book to get from A to Z and in bookstores, so when you see a translation made available at a bookstore or online, it was probably finished around two years ago. (Sometimes it can be more; Shaykh ‘Abdallah Siraj al-Din’s book, Sending Prayers Upon the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), was completed in 2008 and came out just this spring.)

Sidra: What does Ibriz mean and what inspired you to come up with that title for your services?

Abdul Aziz: The name was inspired by the work al-Ibriz of Shaykh Ahmad b. Mubarak al-Lamati and the Golden Ratio.

Ibriz is “Pure Gold” 
The word Ibriz (pronounced like e-breeze) is Arabic for pure gold. Ibriz is also the title to one of my favoriteimage books: al-Ibriz min kalam Sayyidi ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Dabbagh (Pure Gold from the Words of My Master ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Dabbagh).

Ibriz is Equilibrium and Beauty

The logo for Ibriz is a drawing of the Golden Spiral representing the Golden Section, also called the Golden Ratio and the Divina Proportione (the Divine Proportion), which represents beauty and balance, rigor and equilibrium. The golden ratio and the sacred art that is produced through it are extremely direct expressions of the idea of the Divine Unity underlying the inexhaustible variety of the world. It is through harmony that the Divine is reflected into the world, which is called “unity in multiplicity,” and “multiplicity in unity.”

Sidra: If it were up to you, what would be your dream project?

Abdul Aziz : If I were on a mountain top and had all the time and resources I need, there is no question about it, I would do an annotated re-translation of al-Ibriz (the current translation by two Orientalists has several fatal errors), a complete translation of Shaykh Yusuf al-Nabahani’s three volume compendium of Prophetic Love Jawahir al-bihar (Jewels of the Seas), Shaykh Muhammad al-Qandusi’s 300 page magnum opus al-Ta’sis fi masawi al-dunya wa mahawi Iblis (a book about combating the traps of Shaytan through love and attachment to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)), and a recent five hundred page work that has collected numerous stories of saints and pious people who saw the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in their dreams and conversed with him.

Sidra: Jazak’llahu khayran for your time, and for sharing and inspiring your journey as a translator so far with us!

All translated books by Abdul Aziz Suraqah can be purchased from: Knowledge and Wisdom Bookstore in the UK, Firdous Books in Canada, and Mecca Books in the US.

You can follow Abdul Aziz on social media: FacebookTwitter. Also check out his excellent website: Ibriz Media

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My friend, ‘The Conscious Muslim’ blogged a series recently on the 10 Companions of the Prophet ﷺ. I benefited  from reading his posts, and wanted to share the links here so others can also benefit, inshaAllah ta’Ala.

Please be aware that these are my notes. Any mistakes, errors or misinterpretations of words are from me alone, so please do forgive and overlook my shortcomings. I pray these notes are of some benefit to the readers, insha-Allah ta’Ala.

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. All praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger Muhammad, mercy to the worlds.

  • We often find a disparity between the heart and the tongue. The tongues might be praising the Prophet , but the hearts are suspended and in a state of heedlessness.
  • In a tradition narrated by Imam Tabrani, the Prophet  described one of the most difficult situations/circumstances that the human beings will find themselves in during the next world is when we begin to be commanded by the angels to traverse over the hellfire, the Sirrat (bridge over hellfire). Depending upon how we listened to the Prophet , and the swiftness of our move towards his obedience, is what ultimately determines how swiftly we shall traverse over the siratt. The Prophet spoke about the bridge being the distance of 3000 years!  When we hear a tradition like this, don’t we feel some sort of immediacy to change our life for the better?
  • Salawat upon the Prophet ﷺ  is what will help us get to the other end of the Sirrat, and rescue us to safety.
  • There is nothing better in imitating the Rasul  other than to invoke much blessings upon him. The Prophet said that whomsoever invokes 1 prayer upon me, Allah invokes 10 upon him; whomsoever invokes 10 prayers upon me, Allah will invoke 100 upon him; whomsoever invokes 100 prayers upon me, Allah will invoke 1000 upon him; and whomsoever invokes 1000 prayers upon me, he will rub shoulders with me at the gates of paradise! This is the reality of the gift Allah has given us when we invoke prayers upon the Prophet .
  • This Rabi’a (month) is a sad one for many people as it’s the first one without the great Shaykh Ramadan al-Bouti. 
  • Shaykh Al-Sayyid Muhammad al- Alawi al- Maliki was one of the greatest saints of our times.  Shaykh Ibrahim narrated the experience of what it was like meeting the great Sayyid Muhammad al- Alawi al- Maliki. He described it as if you were in the presence of a king of the duniya and aakhira! He also said that Hababba Noor (Habib Umar’s wife) said she never cried for anyone, other than her own father, the way she cried when the great Sayyid passed onto the next world. The people of Allah knew what it meant for the Sayyid to pass onto the next world. There is a vacuum of void when these great beings leave for the barzakh. 
  • Shaykh Al-Sayyid Muhammad al- Alawi al- Maliki was asked by someone: when you do not have a Shaykh who can guide you to Allah, how do you find a Shaykh? The great Shaykh advised that if someone takes to the Salawat upon the Prophet tﷺ then this is his or her Shaykh. The Salawat will guide him to his Shaykh who will guide him to Allah and will grant him salvation on the day of judgement.

Next up- The Virtues Tour 1435/2014 – Shaykh AbdulKarim Yahya (Luton). Watch this space….

Visit my lovely friend Zara’s blog to read her excellent notes from The Virtues Tour 1435/2014. 

Jaza ‘Llahu anna Sayyidina Muhammadan sallaAllahu alayhi wasalam ma huwa ahluhu
Jaza ‘Llahu anna Sayyidina Muhammadan sallaAllahu alayhi wasalam ma huwa ahluhu
Jaza ‘Llahu anna Sayyidina Muhammadan sallaAllahu alayhi wasalam ma huwa ahluhu

Subhana Rabbika Rabbi l’izzati amma yasifun, wa salamun ala l’mursalin, wal-humdulillahi Rabbi l’alamin.

Every Muslim grows up knowing the significance and importance of Makkah and Madinah. From a very young age, we feel a familiarity and closeness to those two Holy Places. Yet the sanctity of Masjid al-Aqsa doesn’t always get a significant mention. The name Masjid al-Aqsa (Bayt al-Muqaddas) translates as the “Farthest Mosque”. It’s the second house of Allah built on earth, and the first qibla for the Muslims. This is where our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ came on the miraculous night journey from Makkah riding on the Buraq, the winged horse.

My parents had briefly told me about Masjid al-Aqsa when I was younger. Yet it was only in later years when I developed an interest in Islam and began learning more about the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that Al-Aqsa and the Holy Land began to feature more prominently in my mind. After visiting the two Haramain, Makkah and Madinah, I longed to visit the third: Masjid al-Aqsa. There was something mysterious about Jerusalem (Al-Quds) that always filled me with a deep sense of awe. I was yet to visit, but I felt sure it was a special place and I needed to go and experience it for myself. I had been under the impression that it’s extremely difficult to get into Jerusalem as Muslims, and that it wasn’t safe. My family was also under the same impression so nobody tried or even looked into going. It was only when one of my best friends Asma went travelling around the Levant at the end of 2009, that I started believing that I too could visit Jerusalem. I kept my wish within my heart and knew that one day, it would happen, if Allah wills.
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A few years later, my friend Sheba and I planned to visit Jerusalem. We sought all the travel advice we needed from our friend Asma. We had almost booked our flights, but due to unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to go. Although it was disappointing, I still held onto the hope that Allah would give us another and better opportunity to go, where everything would be facilitated for us by Him. We just had to hold on tight to that thought and stick to our intentions.

Three months later, I got an email from Sheba about a trip to Jordan and Jerusalem. She was planning to go with her mother and sister and asked me if I wanted to join them. My cousin Anam had also been looking into trips to Palestine, so when I mentioned this to her, her immediate reaction was “lets do it!”. Of course, I didn’t require much encouragement; I had been ready to go for years.

We booked our trip with Islamic Travels Islamic Travels and everything went smoothly, thanks to their level of service and professionalism. I’ve never known a Muslim organisation that responds to queries and deals with bookings so swiftly!

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So finally, we were going to visit the Land of the Prophets! I felt the need to prepare a bit, so as a reminder, I started reading the famous “Stories of the Prophets” by Ibn Kathir. My anticipation grew each day, but I tried restraining my excitement, as there was always the possibility we might not get entry into Jerusalem. I wanted to let go of all expectations and maintain a positive attitude, so kept telling myself “If it’s meant to be, it will be”.

Sunday 2 June 2013

The day arrived when we were leaving for our trip. At London Gatwick, we met the rest of the group for the first time; there were 50 of us in total. There was quite a mixture of people, some who were familiar to me from Islamic circles in London, some who were not. I was content being there with Sheba and Anam, two people whom I love dearly and knew would be great travelling companions.

Although we would be in Jordan for a greater part of the trip (five days), I was looking forward to the three days we were going to be spending in Jerusalem, out of which one was going to be the blessed night of Isra wal Miraj, and the other was the day of Jummah (Friday prayer). Jordan had its attractions too, the two main ones for me being the Cave of the Sleepers (their story is mentioned in Surah Kahf), and Prophet Shoaib’s (peace be upon him) Maqam in the city of Madyan. (Since this travelogue is about Jerusalem, I will skip the next couple of days we spent in Jordan, and move straight onto Jerusalem)

Wednesday 5 June 2013

At last, the day arrived when we were leaving Jordan to enter Jerusalem. We got to the Jordanian border at 9am and had to queue for a visa. The Israeli authorities at the border gave visas to all the seniors who were aged 50 plus in our group without any questioning. The rest of us were held back and we just had to sit there and wait. I was mentally prepared for this situation and knew we would be hanging around for a very long time. The only thing I wished I had done was taken a good book to read.

We weren’t the only group that were held back, there were lots of other groups and individuals who also had to undergo the “interrogation process”. The Israeli officials selected randomly, calling one person at a time for questioning. It was a very slow process.

As a group, we stuck together, sitting on benches and on the floor. This was the point where we all actually started getting to know each other, bonding as a result. It reminded me of Hajj, where at the beginning you hardly know anyone, but then after spending hours at the camp in Jeddah and the road trips, you become one family.

Everyone in the group was patient. Nobody complained or provoked the officials. 12 hours had gone by and they had questioned almost everyone in my group apart from me and four others. As long as we got into the Holy Land, I didn’t care how many hours they detained us. Yet it was only human to have that natural feeling of fear, that natural question which was at the back of my mind, “what if I get turned away?”. It was only at that point that I started feeling a little bit anxious as I thought only those questioned would get visas.  It was getting quite late, and the closing time of the border was near. Everyone was hungry and tired by this stage, but the thought of praying at Masjid al-Aqsa gave us energy and kept us all going.

Finally, an officer came out and started handing back some of the passports with visas. They staggered the process of returning everyone’s passport, but again, everyone waited for each person to get theirs back. I was lucky to be one of the few people who got a visa without questioning, not that I would’ve cared if I’d had to undergo it. It all worked out well, Alhumdulilah!

The coach journey to our hotel in Jerusalem went smoothly, we did not get stopped at any checkpoints. Our hotel was located on the top of Mount of Olives, which provided us with a panoramic view of Jerusalem. As we reached our hotel and got off the coach, our eyes witnessed the splendid Dome of the Rock Masjid (Masjid Qubbat As-Sakhrah) for the first time. It felt surreal; we actually made it to al-Quds! I was rather overwhelmed, so the first thing I did before even checking into my room was call my mother back in the UK. I wanted to share the moment of being in a blessed place with her. My mother was thrilled that we had made it to Jerusalem safely, especially since it was the blessed night of the Isra wal Miraj the following night.

It was almost midnight and the fajr prayer was at 4am. You could feel everyone’s eagerness to pray fajr in congregation at Masjid al-Aqsa. We knew we had to leave the hotel around 3:30am to make it on time. I tried sleeping, but my mind was too restless. The excitement was just a bit too much! We only had three days scheduled for Jerusalem, out of which the first had already been spent at the border. This meant we only had two days to fit a lot in, so sleep was not going to be part of the agenda.

Thursday 6 June 2013

The coach dropped us off at a coach stop and it was a good 10 minute walk up a steep hill to Masjid al-Aqsa. We had a lovely elderly couple in our group, aunty and uncle we called them (we are desis after all!). They had come on this trip with some members of their family. Uncle has been afflicted with Parkinson’s, which meant he had days where he could not move at all. Since our flight from London, and throughout our time in Jordan, uncle had been motionless and his wife and sons were helping him in the wheelchair. However that morning, as we were all walking up to Masjid al-Aqsa, uncle was there in front of us, racing to get to the fajr prayer! It was like a miracle, he wasn’t even using his walking stick!

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As we were walking towards Masjid al-Aqsa, there were guards stopping and searching whomever they could. I had mixed emotions. Part of me was elated and overwhelmed, I simply couldn’t believe where my steps were taking me. The other part of me felt immense sadness because of what our Palestinian brothers and sisters have to go through. Many of them can’t even pray at Masjid al-Aqsa. Being stopped and interrogated unnecessarily will outrage any normal person, but imagine how the Palestinians feel when this is an almost everyday reality for them?

We prayed the first fajr prayer in congregation. The recitation was absolutely beautiful. I still couldn’t believe I was sitting in Masjid al-Aqsa. After the prayer, people gathered for Qur’an and study circles within the mosque. Escaping the oppression that lay beyond those walls, people still managed to find time for their Lord. It was a moment to behold.

Masjid al-Aqsa at fajir time (morning prayer).

Masjid al-Aqsa at fajir time (morning prayer).

We had a packed schedule for the day so we had to leave the Masjid straight after fajr prayer. Our first stop was going to be Masjid-e-Khalil in Hebron. Below is a snapshot of some of the places we visited during the day.

Masjid-e-Khalil in Hebron

Masjid-e-Khalil, also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs, is built on Mount Nabi Yunus, the highest peak in the West Bank. The Masjid is built over a small cemetery and the following Prophets and their wives are buried there: Prophet Ibrahim and his wife Sarah; their son Prophet Isaaq and his wife Rifaqah; their son Prophet Yaqoob and his wife Liah, and their son Prophet Yusuf. Peace be upon them all.

Masjid-e-Khalil, also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs

Masjid-e-Khalil, also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs

The place is split into two; on the right you have the Masjid for the Muslims, and then on the left is a synagogue for the Jews. The entrance is guarded and controlled by Israeli soldiers. Within the Muslim side are the tombs of Prophet Ishaq, his wife Rifaqah and his mother Sarah (peace be upon them all). Within the Jewish side are the tombs of Prophet Yaqoob, his wife Liah and Prophet Yusuf (upon them all be peace). Prophet Ibrahim’s (peace be upon him) tomb is in the middle and accessible from both Jewish and Muslim sides. The tombs are directly over the graves, which are below ground.

Inside Masjid el-Khalil. Tombs of Prophet Isaaq and his wife Rifaqah (peace be upon them both)

Inside Masjid el-Khalil. Tombs of Prophet Isaaq and his wife Rifaqah (peace be upon them both)

Maqam of Prophet Lut alayhi salam

The Maqam is situated in the town of Bani Na’im.

The Maqam is situated in the town of Bani Na’im.

Maqam of Prophet Yunus

Prophet Yunus (peace be upon him) Masjid, with his tomb inside.

Prophet Yunus (peace be upon him) Masjid, with his tomb inside.

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Bethlehem

Separation wall

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Graffiti art on the Separation Wall

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Masjid of Salman al-Farsi

Inside the Masjid is the grave of one of the most famous of the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ: Salman al-Farsi (may Allah be pleased with him). It marks a place where he once stayed and is located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Masjid of Salman al-Farsi

Masjid of Salman al-Farsi

By the time we had finished visiting all these places, it was nearly time for the Magrib prayer. It had been an intense, but amazing day. We had visited the Maqams of some of the Prophets who had stepped on this Earth; it was a truly special experience and it only increased the desire of wanting to actually meet them in the next world, in al-Jaanah (May we all reach al-Jaanah without any reckoning and be with all the Prophets. Ameen!).

We prayed the Magrib prayer in congregation inside the Dome of the Rock Masjid, and then went back to our hotel to freshen up for what was going to be a very blessed night: Isra wal Miraj. (Women can only pray the fajr prayer in congregation in Masjid al-Aqsa due to limited space. For all their other prayers, they make their way to the Dome of the Rock Masjid).

We arrived back at the Haram just before the Isha prayer. Whilst walking towards the Dome of the Rock Masjid, I pondered on how the environment was different to Madinah and Makkah. It was less crowded with no skyscrapers surrounding the Haram, or any shops in close proximity, unlike at the other two Haramains. When you are there, your experience is not hindered by worldly distractions. But sadly, access to al-Aqsa is far more restricted. Whilst the Ka’aba is always open and the Prophet’s ﷺ Masjid closes well into the night, both Masjid al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock are locked after each prayer. (This I believe also varies from time to time; it all depends on what the political situation is like at the time. Unfortunately, there are occasions when the Masajids are locked during prayer times as well.)

After praying Isha in congregation inside the Dome of the Rock Masjid, Sheba and I went and sat inside Masjid al-Aqsa. Since it was a special night, both Masajids were remaining open until 11pm. The Masjid was full and there were no strict segregation barriers. Women generally were praying and sitting at the back, but it was perfectly fine for them to explore other parts of the Masjid if they just wanted to have a look. 

“Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” [17:1]

Interior of the Dome,  Masjid al-Aqsa

Interior of the Dome, Masjid al-Aqsa

Inside Masjid al-Aqsa

Inside Masjid al-Aqsa

Ceiling. Masjid al-Aqsa

Ceiling. Masjid al-Aqsa

After a while, we went and sat in the courtyard, a large area between Masjid al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock Masjid. To our right was the breathtaking Dome of the Rock Masjid in full sight; its beauty reminded me of the Prophet’s ﷺ Masjid in Madinah. To our left, we could see the majestic Masjid al-Aqsa, which reminded me of the Ka’aba. It was a beautiful spot to sit. My heart felt at peace; I had so much to talk to Allah about, so many loved ones to pray for.

The Dome of the Rock Masjid

The Dome of the Rock Masjid

“There is not a single inch in Al-Quds (Jerusalem) where a Prophet has not prayed or an Angel not stood”. (Tirmidhi, Ahmad)

I was trying to capture and behold everything around me, and the above Hadith was being repeated in my mind. This is the Holy Land, the place where hundreds of Messengers came with Allah’s message.This is the Holy Land, a place where angels have descended with Allah’s message. This is the Holy Land, the only place in this world where all the Messengers of Allah prayed at the same time led by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. And it wasn’t just any night, it was the actual night of the Miraj, where the Prophet ﷺ ascended to the highest heavens, and then all the way up to the Lote Tree, the farthest boundary and met his Lord. What an incredible night to be there where the beginning of that event took place. How could my mind not be blown away? It was too much to take it all in. Glory be to Him!

Allah could have chosen any other time of the year for us to go, but He facilitated our trip to coincide with the blessed event of Isra wal Miraj. That certainly was a great honour and gift from Him, something which I felt completely undeserving of, but Allah gives without measure, even to those who are not worthy because He is Ar-Rahman (the Most Merciful) and Al-Kareem (The Most Generous). This trip became a reality only because of His Mercy and Generosity. Allah truly plans beautifully.

There was only an hour left before everything was going to be locked up for the night, only opening again for fajr prayers. Sheba and I decided to spend that last hour inside the Dome of the Rock. The Masjid was more crowded than Masjid al-Aqsa. We went and performed 2 rakat nafl (optional/voluntary prayer) underneath the actual rock which the Prophet ﷺ stood and ascended to the heavens.

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The actual rock which the Prophet ﷺ stood and then ascended to the heavens.

The actual rock which the Prophet ﷺ stood and then ascended to the heavens.

O best of those to whose courtyards repair the seekers of blessings,
On foot and on the backs of laden camels.

O you who are the greatest sign for the one able to perceive,
And the most sublime blessing for the one desiring benefit.

You travelled by night from one sacred place to yet another,
Just as the full moon travels across the pitch-black sky.

That night you ascended until you reached a station of nearness
Only two-bows-lengths distant,
A station never before attained or even hoped for.

Thus all the Prophets and Messengers gave precedence to you
The precedence of a master over those who serve him.

You traversed the Seven Heavens with them.
And you were the standard bearer- leading their procession.

Until you left no greater goal for the seeker of eminence and proximity,
Nor any higher station for the one seeking elevation.

All other stations seemed lower in comparison with yours,
Since you were proclaimed in the highest terms- the unique one.

So that you would achieve a station of perfect proximity
Hidden from the eyes,
And obtain a secret concealed from all creation.

So you attained to every excellent without equal,
And you passed alone through every station, far from all others.

Sublime indeed is the measure of the ranks you have been granted,
Beyond comprehension the blessings bestowed upon you.

Glad tidings for us, O assembly of Muslims,
For truly we have a pillar of support and solicitude
That can never be destroyed.

When God named the one who called us to obey Him
The noblest of Messengers,
Henceforward we became the noblest of peoples.

~ Chapter 7 of the Burda by Imam Sharaf Ad-Din Al-Busiri

The hour went by quickly, and soon the Masjid was empty; only Sheba and I were left. If there was one place I would not have minded being locked up for the night, it would have been there. We stayed there as long as we could, and probably got an extra 10 minutes before the guards came over to us and alas, told us we had to leave so they could lock up. As much as we wanted to spend the night sitting in the Haram, it was impossible to do so, mainly due to the restrictions and we just wanted to be safe. Alhumdulilah, for every second we were able to spend there that night.

Friday 7 June 2013

After praying fajir in congregation at Masjid al-Aqsa, our group met Shaykh Yusuf Abu Sneina, one of the Imams of Masjid al-Aqsa. Shaykh Sneina very kindly gave us some of his time and took us for a historical tour around the Haram. I had only slept for a few hours over the past few days, so the sleep deprivation was really catching up with me (bad timing or what?!). I was struggling to function and just stay awake, but somehow I managed.

Shaykh Yusuf Abu Sneina

Shaykh Yusuf Abu Sneina

After our tour, we went back to the hotel to pack and check out. I managed to fit in a quick 20-minute power-nap (it was the best thing ever!), and then drank as much coffee as I could to wake myself up. We only had a few more hours left in the Holy Land, I was not going to waste a single minute.

Sunrise over Jerusalem. View from our hotel, top of Mount of Olives.

Sunrise over Jerusalem. View from our hotel, top of Mount of Olives.

We got back to the Haram at around 11:00am. Jummah was going to start at 12:30pm. This was the only time we actually got to really walk around and explore the place. We headed to what was the original Masjid al-Aqsa, which is in the basement of what the Masjid is at the moment.

Masjid al-Aqsa in its full glory.

Masjid al-Aqsa in its full glory.

Original part of Masjid al-Aqsa.

Original part of Masjid al-Aqsa.

View of Masjid al-Aqsa from the Jewish quarter.

View of Masjid al-Aqsa from the Jewish quarter.

The Golden Dome

The Golden Dome

Detail. Surah Yasin inscribed around the Dome of the Rock Masjid.

Detail. Surah Yasin inscribed around the Dome of the Rock Masjid.

Detail. Beauty.

The time of Jummah was approaching, so Sheba and I went to the Dome of the Rock. It was overcrowded, very hot and humid, but the sweetness of where we were made it all bearable. Sheba and I separated, as it was difficult to find a spot to sit together. I ended up sitting next to a bunch of local Palestinian women. Although my Arabic (which is very limited anyway) is appalling, and the Palestinian ladies could not speak English, we somehow managed to converse and understand each other. I always remember what one of my best friend’s mother, who is Turkish (and can’t speak English) said to me when I met her for the first time in Germany many years ago. She said to me that Muslims communicate with each other through their eyes; so a Muslim will always understand what the other Muslim is saying, or trying to say. I believe this is true as I was able to communicate with these lovely Palestinian women through a mixture of sign and body language, and broken Arabic!

After Jummah prayers, we had to find our group, as it was almost time to depart and leave the Holy Land. But before we found our group, we sneaked in a quick visit to a place we hadn’t seen: Masjid al-Buraq. This is where the Prophet ﷺ tied the Buraq, which transported him to the Dome of the Rock and ascended to the heavens. We had to be quick as we didn’t want our group to be waiting for us. We managed to find our group on time, and see Shaykh Sneina once more who came out to bid us farewell.

Masjid al-Buraaq

Masjid al-Buraaq

Inside Masjid al-Buraq

Inside Masjid al-Buraaq

The ring to which the Prophet ﷺ tied al-Buraq. There is a difference of opinion whether this was the actual ring or not. Allah knows best.

The ring to which the Prophet ﷺ tied al-Buraq. There is a difference of opinion whether this was the actual ring or not. Allah knows best.

And then, sadly, the time came when we had to get on the coach and leave. My heart felt really heavy, it’s always difficult leaving such places. I wished we had more time to spend in the Holy Land, but was grateful to Allah for giving me the opportunity of visiting and making this trip possible, even if it was just for two days.

The Dome of the Rock Masjid in its full glory.

The Dome of the Rock Masjid in its full glory.

Our last stop out of Palestine was Prophet Musa’s (peace be upon him) Maqam in Jerico. The Maqam is located 11km south of Jericho and 20km east of Jerusalem. Sadly, we only had 10 minutes to spend at the Maqam, just enough time to recite Fatiha and make a short du’a.

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Courtyard inside the Maqam of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him).

We had a 3-hour drive ahead of us and we had to make it to the Aqaba border before it closed. The driver really had to put his foot down! As soon as Prophet Musa’s (peace be upon him) Maqam was out of sight, I dozed off as by that time I was completely exhausted and was really struggling to stay awake. The caffeine had lost its effect, and the only thing that my body needed was sleep……

———

I wrote this travelogue as a way of sharing my experience of the Holy Land, and to encourage others to visit, especially whilst its still fairly open to Muslims, and for those who have the financial means to do so. Reading about Jerusalem, seeing photos and videos does not give the place the justice it deserves; you have to physically go, breathe the air, step on the soil, meet local Palestinians, pray inside Masjid al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, visit the Maqams of the Prophets etc, in order to truly experience it. The two days I spent out there only gave me a glimpse, and a feel for what the place is all about. There is so much more to see and experience, I mean, it’s not just called the Holy Land for no reason. I’m already looking forward to going back one day, if Allah wills.  Actually,  what I would really love to do is go on the three Haramain tour: Al-Aqsa, Madinah and Makkah. Now that is what you call a dream tour…… one day, if Allah wills! 🙂

If you are planning a trip to Jerusalem and need some advice, please do not hesitate to contact me. Just drop me a message in the comments section and leave your e-mail address. If you are a bit of an Instagrammer like me, then I would recommend following this profile: ZALAMEH, who shares live photos from Palestine and highlights what the current situation is like out there.

“The Muhammadan Light, labeled also as the Muhammedan Truth, is an essence that represents the spiritual identity of the Blessed Prophet ﷺ . It is he who is most beloved and the most precious in the sight of the Creator. The reason for the existence of creation is the love of the Almighty towards the Muhammedan Light, the first entity created. The entire universe has therefore been given existence in the honour of the Muhammdan Light, the core which it envelops. Existence is only to expose and explain his reality. Having said that, just as it is impossible to pour an ocean into a cup, it is inconceivable to understand the Muhammadan Light as befits its nature.”  ~ Taken from “The Prophet Muhammad Mustafa the elect”, Book 1 (Meccan period), by Osman Nuri Topbas

“The Light of Mustapha, He first made,
Which He loved, the Generous, the Great.”
~Sulayman Chelebi

“Being the most perfected of all human species,
Prophethood thus began and ended with the
Messenger of Allah.” ~Ibn al-Arabi

The Green Dome of Felicity. Underneath which the beloved rests. Endless peace and blessings be upon you oh beloved of Allah!

The Green Dome of Felicity. Underneath which the beloved rests. Endless peace and blessings be upon you oh beloved of Allah!

The Ascension, by Talib al-Habib

(A beautifully composed and written Nasheed by Talib al-Habib. Lyrics pasted below.)

From the Sacred House to Jerusalem,

Through the seven heavens did he ascent

To the Love Divine beyond where or when,

Send peace on him and his family!

 

Like a moon set sail on the heaven’s seas.

Through the dark night riding on the lightning-steed

See! One born of earth strides the heaven’s fields!

Send peace on him and his family!

And the stars gave thanks and the moon did weep

As its beauty paled before the Hashimi

For what sun or moon can compare to him?

Send peace on him and his family!

 

As his heart was strengthened and purified,

And was filled with wisdom and light on light

So the wells of Zamzam he sanctified,

Send peace on him and his family!

And the Prophets- Adam TO Jesus Christ-

Came to honour him and to pray behind

One from whose lamp they had received their light.

Send peace on him and his family!

 

And the gates of heaven, so high and strong,

Opened joyfully for the one called upon

And the angels sang ‘peace on you, welcome!’

Send peace on him and his family!

When Gibril did falter, Muhammad rose,

Where no Prophet nor angel may approach

So beloved to the Beloved returned!

Send peace on him and his family!

 

For the peace that comes to surrendered hearts.

For the mercy descending when the prayer is called

For the blessings born of your charity.

Send peace on him and his family!

Through perfection did he attain the heights.

He dispelled the dark with his beauty’s light

Oh! How blest are all of his qualities!

Send peace on him and his family!

The Festivities of Light

By Zeshan Zafar

 

As we arrive at the end of Rabi al-Awwal, a month where Muslims come together to celebrate the Milad, or the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), we feel refreshed by the gatherings we have attended in honour and veneration of the Messenger of Allah. Many express this love through a variety of ways; through the recitation of the Holy Book, The Quran al-Kareem, listening to sermons wherein his life is recounted, almsgiving to the poor or by reciting poetry in praise of him.

Such gatherings are occasions that encourage us to engage in the divine practice of sending blessings and peace on the Prophet: ‘Indeed Allah and His angels shower blessings upon the Prophet, O you who truly believe, ask blessings upon him and greet him with greetings’ (Q33:56). It is the  Qur’anic imperative  and through traditions of the Prophet  that we find words of remembrance that motivate many of us looking to fill that spiritual vacuum that may exist in our lives. When looking for that divine compass, Muslims during this month take advantage from being spiritually recharged and whose celestial impact lasts longer than the results obtained from many bestselling self-help guides that sit on bookshop shelves. The month of the Mawlid is often seen as a time when families, friends and even strangers gather to remember the Prophet in praising him through various means of remembrance. We know that Allah has named his Messenger “The praiseworthy”, and thus it can only be incumbent upon us to follow such a call.

Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent as a mercy to mankind, and it is in this mercy we recognise the importance of his perfection. Historically, even going back to the Fatamid era, gatherings such as the Mawlid have been a vital source and opportunity for individuals to learn more about the salient features of the Prophet’s life, his character, his kindness to those who are needy and  those disadvantaged, his  actions that helped guide individuals with their daily affairs, his ethics and values exemplified in his interaction with various religions and cultures, his honesty in keeping to his word through treaties and promises, his humour to alleviate distress and  his mercy to those that had wronged him, a standard for all of us to aspire to.

One of the great lessons we learn about the character of the Prophet is through listening or reading about his blessed life. Through prophetic traditions, we learn how the Prophet implored us never to judge individuals or form an unfair judgment but to keep a good opinion of others regardless of what we may witness of them. One of these great stories is the story of Julaybib, a companion of the Prophet who was referred to as being ‘damim’ ugly or deformed. Many people shunned him to the point when people learnt he was approaching their homes they would avoid him and close their doors or mock him from afar.

Julaybib was consciously aware of what people thought about him, however once the Messenger of Allah arrived in Madinah,  Julaybib was assiduous in learning from the Messenger of Allah and would sit with humility and in a shy manner at all times in the presence of the Prophet. When the Prophet once asked him about marriage, he assumed he was being teased as this was something he never dreamt was possible because of his physical appearance. However the Prophet did not see it this way and valued him as a person by taking the initiative in asking for the hand of an Ansar girl who was known for her beauty. The girl’s parents initially were ecstatic thinking that the Messenger of Allah himself had come for her hand in marriage. When they heard that Julaybib was in fact the prospective husband they declined the proposal. Upon hearing the proposal from the Messenger of Allah, the daughter was overcome by the verses of the Quran that states the importance of a matter once Allah and His Messenger have decided on it. She had understood this visit to mean much more than what many individuals would go through when getting married and that was the importance of understanding that the man being proposed to her was someone whom the Messenger loved. Henceforth whatever he loved she loved, and in turn the beauty of Julaybib had manifested itself to her in ways that many could not see. After much protestation she was eventually betrothed to Julaybib. They were blessed with the prayers of the Prophet and lived in happiness until the death of Julaybib, which is a fascinating story in itself.

Some important lessons that can be learnt from this is the approach the Prophet had in recognising the worth of every soul on this earth, but also the love that individuals had for the Prophet that they oversaw the blemishes that we all may have physically or internally within our character.

This simple example should encourage us all to reflect on our own deficiencies yet motivate us with aspirations of what we hope to attain from this world, which is being able to praise our Maker through loving the Prophet and what he loved.

We are reminded of the importance of this love through the hadith of the Prophet which states, ‘Teach your children three things: Love of the Prophet, love of his family and companions and love for the Quran’.

Many scholars highlight that celebrating the birth of the Messenger of Allah is an occasion that should be observed throughout the year. With the increasing amount of Mosques in the West many individuals now have the chance to celebrate these gatherings close to their homes. Even if this does not take place where you reside, we all as individuals have a beautiful chance to begin such a celebration in our homes. At a recent Mawlid organised by family members, we had the honour of having a guest who left a deep and lasting impression on the audience through his state and presence. Family members asked me about this and I repeated what I had learnt from this man’s son; that he has been dedicated in celebrating the Mawlid in his home for the past thirty years, once a month. Not only this, but he also operated an open door policy for any individual to attend, and these were the Mawlids that I was aware of.

Reading and listening about how Mawlids are celebrated, we soon learn the richness of such gatherings. Annemarie Schimmel in her book ‘And Muhammad is His Messenger’ has some beautiful descriptions of how this month is celebrated, from the country that they are celebrated in; the decorations that individuals place in their homes, to the food and sweets that are served to guests and children, the poetry and songs that they often recited and how the local culture impacts they way they celebrate the Mawlid.

We are fortunate, of late, in the West to read exceptionally translated texts into the English language that aid us in such veneration. Such translations include the Qasidah al-Burda  of Imam al-Busiri by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad which offer many individuals the chance to read the beauty of poetry composed in praise of the Prophet. Other works such as the Dala’il al-Khayrat, the Barzanji Mawlid and ash-Shama’il al-Muhammadiyah by Imam Tirmidhi are a few of the many that can also be read at such gatherings.

As we move on in preparation for our ultimate journey of felicity, I pray that we are able to carry the festivities of light in holding Mawlids all year around, inviting friends and family, establishing a positive environment for children to experience loving the Prophet, his family and the Qur’an al-Kareem, and most importantly, being able to carry this torch of light to next year in greater preparation than the year that has passed. After all, emulating the Prophet in his character is something that we all yearn to increase, and the Mawlid is one avenue that aids us in our expression of loving the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

© Zeshan Zafar, Rabi’ al-Awwal 1433/February 2012

This concludes the Light Reflections series on Healing Hearts. Hope you have enjoyed reading all the daily posts. Please recite a special prayer for all the contributors, their families and teachers.


The Beloved

By Taslim Rashid

This work shows how when one begins to deepen their spirituality they are made aware of the great character and status of the Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him. Hence an individual begins to work towards an understanding and appreciation of this great man that once walked this earth. Contained within the work are some symbolic references to this high esteem that he is held in:

 The piece presents itself as a ‘cloud’ almost. This is a reference to how the clouds shaded the Prophet Alaisalam.

The centre name ‘Muhammad’ is covered in mesh known to artists as ‘angel hair’. Here, one of the references is to the fact that the name of the Prophet is written on the eyes of angels.

The name of the piece itself ‘The Beloved’ is a reference to how there were titles associated with the Messengers of God; for instance Prophet Ibrahim Alaisalam is known as ‘The Friend of God’. This title shows the unique status of the final Messenger as the Beloved of God Himself.

In line with most Tranquilart work, the theme of change is reflected in the piece through colour. The shades of light and dark paint depict our spiritual transcendances in this world. The darker shades represent the chaotic life of a spirit in search for peace, meaning and depth. The lighter shades represent the goals acheived once the being sets out looking for change. I have always affirmed that Tranquilart is about change. Here, the name of the Prophet indicates that he is the light guiding the spirit towards the harmony it desires.

An Urdu poem surrounds the piece. This poem is about the Prophet of Islam. A translation is given here:

Tere Hoteh By Dr Tahir-al Qadri

Tere hoteh janam liyaa hota

Phir kabi toh tujhe milah hota

Kaash mein sung -e dar tera hota

Tere kadmon ko chuma hota

Lartah pir tah tere adhuon se

Tere hatir mein marr gaya hota

Tu chala karta mere palkhon par

Kaash mein tera rasta hota

Tu kabhi toh mujeh bhi tak leta

Tere takne pe biq gaya hota

Katra hota mein tere aasoon ka

Ghameh-ummat mein behh gaya hota

Tu joh aata mere janazeh par

Tere hoteh mein marr gaya hota

Hota Tahir tere fakiron mein

Tere dehleez par kara hota.

Being born in your presence

Would that, I have ever met you

 Had been the floor of your house

Would that, I had been kissed by your feet

I would have fought any one of your enemies

For your sake, I would have died

You would have walked on my brow

Had I been your path

Would, that sometimes you’d laid an eye on me

Upon your gaze, I would have been sold

A drop of your tear if were I

Would have flown in the nations’ sorrow

Had you come to my funeral

In your presence would I have died

If were Tahir from your sages

On your doorstep, would he have stood .

The reason for using an Urdu poem is reflective of Identity as a Muslim woman born and living in England. Neither myself, nor most of my siblings learnt to read or write Urdu as a child. I never really thought I would need it. As an adult I learnt to speak Urdu in the various environs I found myself in. My use of the Urdu poem in the piece reflects my own search for identity; my mother-tongue is a dialect of Punjabi and thus not a ‘recorded’ language – this makes Urdu the closest written language to my roots.

Fusing the Arabic, English and Pakistani allowed me to demonstrate that the Message of the Prophet was not limited to one nation or time.

Finally, the piece was one of the first pieces which I did mostly without the aid of a paintbrush. The main process has been painting with my fingers directly and this was then aided with the beadwork. Each bead has been taken individually by my fingers and stitched into the canvas. The entire process was extremely peaceful and encouraged me to ponder deeply into the title: The Beloved.

© Taslim Rashid has contributed this beautiful article to the Light Reflections series on Healing Hearts. The article was originally published on her awesome blog  back in 2004.

A Smile

By Umm NoorBilal Petersen


“A Smile”

His laughter was a smile.

His steps hallowed the dust.

His saliva sweetened the world of waters.

His gestures reflected heavenly hierarchy.

His voice a mellifluous melody.

His perspiration; beads of lustrous pearls.

His breath a charismatic breeze.

His glance; impassioned arrows piercing souls.

His hair a shimmering aura rippling the skies.

His silence a captivating rhapsody.

His sanctuary a haven of serenity.

His laugh was but a smile.

Radiating till this day.

I have not seen anything more beautiful than the Messenger of Allah SallAllahu alaihi wasallam. It was as if the sun was shining in his face. When he laughed, it reflected from the wall. His laughter was a smile….his companions smiled rather than laughed in his presence out of respect for him and to imitate him. When he was happy he looked downwards. Generally his laughter consisted of a smile and he showed his teeth which were as white as hailstones. I did not see anyone who smiled more than Rasulullah SallAllahu alaihi wasallam. The laugh of Sayyidina Rasulullah SallAllahu alaihi wasallam was but a smile. A collection from two indispensable books: Muhammad, Messenger of Allah and Shamaa’il Tirmidhi.

Insha’Allah by reading the numerous Ahadith on the occasions when our beloved Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam smiled we too can smile and recall the various feelings that made him SallAllahu alaihi wasallam smile, whether due to happiness, delight, astonishment, wonder or any other reason.

The Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam was on a journey with his slave Anjashah driving the camels carrying his women RadhiAllahu anhunna, Anjashah began chanting a song to them to go faster, when the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam smiled and said to him: “O Anjashah, wayhak! (may Allah be merciful to you) Be gentle with the glass vessels.” (The women. Some narrations translate glass as crystal)

Once the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam was sitting while two sheep were fighting each other with their horns and one of them butted the other and overcame it. Thereupon the Messenger SallAllahu alaihi wasallam smiled and was asked: “What is it that you are smiling for, O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “I am astonished at the case of this defeated sheep. By Whom in Whose hand my soul is, the other sheep will be punished for butting it on the Day of Resurrection.”

Abdullah ibn Mas’ood RadhiAllahu anhu said, “I know the person who will come out last from the fire. He will be such a man who will crawl out (due to the severity of the punishment of Jahannam he will not be able to walk). He will then be ordered to enter Jannah. He will go there and find that all the places therein are occupied. He will return and say, ‘O Allah the people have taken all the places.’ It will be said to him. ‘Do you remember the places in the world?’  He will reply, ‘O my creator, I remember well.’ It will be commanded to him. ‘Make your wish in whichever way your heart desires.’ He will put forward his desires. It shall be commanded. All your desires are fulfilled and in addition ten times the size of the world is granted to you. He will reply, ‘Are you jesting with me O my Allah, and You are the King of the Kings? (There is no place in Jannah and You are granting me a place ten times greater than the world).” Ibn Mas’ood RadhiAllahu anhu said, “I saw Rasulullah SallAllahu alaihi wasallam smile till his mubarak teeth showed, when he related this portion of the man’s reply.”

Abu Dhar RadhiAllahu anhu says, Rasulullah SallAllahu alaihi wasallam said, “I know that person well who will enter Jannah first and also that person who will be the last one to be taken out of Jahannam. On the Day of Qiyaamah a person will be brought forward to the court of Almighty Allah. It shall be commanded that all the minor sins of that person be put forward to him and the major sins be concealed. When the minor sins are disclosed to that person, he will accept that he had committed them, as there will be no room for refuting them. (He will begin to tremble and say in his heart that these are only the minor sins, what will happen when the major sins are exposed.) During this happening it shall be commanded that for every sin of that person he be given the Ajr (thawaab-reward) of a good deed. Upon hearing this person himself will say I still have many sins left to account for, that are not seen here.”
Abu Dhar RadhiAllahu anhu says, Rasulullah SallAllahu alaihi wasallam while narrating the words of that person began smiling until his mubarak teeth began to show.” (The reason being that the person himself disclosed the very sins he was frightened of.)

Jabir ibn Abdullah RadhiAllahu anhu says, “After I accepted Islam, Rasulullah SallAllahu alaihi wasallam never prohibited me from attending his assemblies. Whenever he saw me he smiled.”

Narrated Abu Hurairah RadhiAllahu anhu: Once the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam was narrating a story, while a Bedouin was sitting with him. “One of the inhabitants of Paradise will ask Allah to allow him to cultivate the land. Allah will ask him, ‘Are you not living in the pleasures you like?’ He will say, ‘Yes, but I like to cultivate the land.’ ” The Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam added, “When the man will be permitted he will sow the seeds and the plants will grow up and get ripe, ready for reaping and so on till it will be as huge as mountains within a wink. Allah will then say to him, ‘O son of Adam! Take here you are, gather the yield; nothing satisfies you.’ “On that, the Bedouin said, “The man must be either from Quraysh, a Muhajiroon or an Ansari, for they are farmers, whereas we are not farmers.” The Prophet smiled at this.

Narrated ‘Amr bin ‘Auf Al-Ansari RadhiAllahu anhu: Allah’s Apostle SallAllahu alaihi wasallam sent Abu ‘Ubaida bin Al-Jarreh RadhiAllahu anhu to Bahrain to collect the Jizya. Allah’s Apostle SallAllahu alaihi wasallam had established peace with the people of Bahrain and appointed Al-’Ala’ bin Al-Hadrami RadhiAllahu anhu as their governor. When Abu ‘Ubaida RadhiAllahu anhu came from Bahrain with the money, the Ansar heard of his arrival which coincided with the time of the morning prayer. When the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam finished the prayer, the Ansar approached him, and he looked at them and smiled on seeing them and said, “I feel that you have heard that Abu ‘Ubaida RadhiAllahu anhu has brought something?” They said, “Yes, O Allah’s Apostle’ He said, “Rejoice and hope for what will please you! By Allah, I am not afraid of your poverty but I am afraid that you will lead a life of luxury as past nations did, whereupon you will compete with each other for it, as they competed for it, and it will destroy you as it destroyed them.”

Narrated ‘Abdullah RadhiAllahu anhu: A (Jewish) Rabbi came to Allah’s Apostle SallAllahu alaihi wasallam and he said, “O Muhammad! We learn that Allah will put all the heavens on one finger, and the earths on one finger, and the trees on one finger, and the water and the dust on one finger, and all the other created beings on one finger. Then He will say, ‘I am the King.’ Thereupon the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam smiled so that his pre-molar teeth became visible, and that was the confirmation of the Rabbi. Then Allah’s Apostle SallAllahu alaihi wasallam recited: ‘No just estimate have they made of Allah such as due to Him.’ (39.67)

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri RadhiAllahu anhu: The Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam said, “The planet earth will be a bread on the Day of Resurrection, and The Resistible, Allah will topple turn it with His Hand like anyone of you topple turns a bread with his hands while preparing the bread for a journey, and that bread will be the entertainment for the people of Paradise.” A man from the Jews came to the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam and said, “May The Beneficent, Allah bless you, O Abul Qasim! Shall I tell you of the entertainment of the people of Paradise on the Day of Resurrection?” The Prophet said, “Yes.” The Jew said, “The earth will be a bread,” as the Prophet had said. Thereupon the Prophet looked at us and smiled till his premolar tooth became visible. Then the Jew further said, “Shall I tell you of the udm (additional food taken with bread) they will have with the bread?” He added, “That will be Balam and Nun.” The people asked, “What is that?” He said, “It is an ox and a fish, and seventy thousand people will eat of the caudate lobe (i.e. extra lobe) of their livers.”

Peace and blessings upon you O my master. O Messenger of Allah, O Prophet of Allah, O master of the messengers. O seal of prophets, O favour of Allah upon the believers.
Peace and blessings upon you O protection of the world and its people, O refuge of the nation, the one whom we pin our hopes, O mercy of humanity.
Peace and blessings upon you O kind, merciful, smiling affectionate Prophet, O you with whom needy and troubled people seek a means to Allah the Exalted. Here I am O Messenger of Allah, seeking help and sanctuary in the vastness of your magnanimity, seeking a hint of your smile as I behold your Dome of Felicity.

Every good deed of a Muslim is charity; meeting your brother with a smiling face is one of the good deeds. Such a bounteous Hadith from our beloved SallAllahu alaihi wasallam.

His laugh was but a smile.

Radiating till this day.

 
All good is from Allah Ta’ala whereas mistakes are from this humble speck. May Allah Ta’ala Bless all readers, bringing you all closer to Him and His Rasul SallAllahu alaihi wasallam. Ameen.

© Umm NoorBilal Petersen has contributed this beautiful article to the Light Reflections series on Healing Hearts. The article was originally published on her awesome blog in 2006.

Sending salawat on our Prophet (peace be upon him)

By Nayyar Ddin

“The affair of love cannot be tallied. You are compelled, you want nothing in return. Whether you get or not, is not in question. Make salawat until your heart shatters like a pomegranate,  until there is nothing. And you will see things that you didn’t even aspire to. Things that you didn’t even think of……”


These were the words of the poet Amir Sulaiman at the recent Virtues tour in London. Reference was being made to sending blessings on our Prophet peace be upon him. Ofcourse it is recommended to have a set daily litany, however brother Amirs words came straight from a lovers  heart where there are no rules. A heart in which there are no boundaries. He spoke of an absolute immersion, no concept of numbers. Just an outpouring of love and remembrance. A desire to give with no return needed. To sit and yearn, and love and remember and long with no idea whether it has been minutes or hours. Whether it has been 100 or a 1000 or 1.

© Nayyar Ddin, Rabi’ al-Awwal 1433/February 2012

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