Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sojourn in Makkah

Our first day trip in Makkah was on Tuesday 22nd of August. (Since we spent only three days in Makkah, that was the only trip we had.) We got onto the buses in the early part of the morning, shortly after the morning prayer at the sacred sanctuary, to avoid the mid-day heat. Our first stop was the Cave of Thaur (ghar thaur) in which the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and Sayyidna Abu Bakr took refuge during the migration to Madinah.

We also visited the plain of Arafah, the plain mentioned in the hadith: “Hajj is Arafah.” Ustad Yahya Rhodus gave a short talk not far from the base of the plain regarding its significance during Hajj. He also talked about the Final Sermon of the Messenger of Allah, peace and prayers be upon him, given from the base of the mountain, Jabal Rahmah, at Arafah during his final pilgrimage. Ustad Yahya mentioned the fact that some scholars deem it a mortal sin to be present on the day of Arafah and not assume that Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala has forgiven all of one’s sins.

The next stop was Muzdalifah, where during Hajj, pilgrims gather stones in preparation for the final rites of the symbolic stoning of the devil. From Muzdalifah, we drove through Mina but without stopping, as renovations were taking place in preparation for the next Hajj season, only months away. As we drove through Mina, we passed by the masjid Hif, which is where many prophets had prayed. Also located at Mina is the masjid which marks the spot known as al Aqabah, where the Messenger of Allah, peace and prayers be upon him, met with about a dozen of the early Muslims of Medina (at that time still known as Yathrib). At this meeting, those Muslims pledged allegiance to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing be upon him. The following year, approximately 73 men and women met with the Messenger, peace and blessings upon him, and pledged their allegiance to him, promising to defend him as they would their own families. The masjid at this spot, in accordance with these two meetings, is known as the Masjid of the Pledge (masjid al-bay‘ah).

We also stopped at the Mountain of Light (jabl nur) and Ustadh Yayha spoke about how that was the mountain the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, used to climb and would meditate in the cave of Hirah, which is located on that mountain, and which is where he received the first revelation. The students did not climb the mountain as it takes most people over an hour to climb it.

The Grave of Sayyidah Khadija

One of our final stops was outside what is still considered the main cemetery of Makkah, Ma’la. This is where Sayyidah Khadijah and many of the Prophet’s companions are buried. Sayyidah Khadija’s grave is in a corner, the remotest corner from where we stood. The grave is enclosed by walls and is not clearly visible from the road. The cemetery, with its immense significance to Muslims, has retained its simplicity. None would know at first glance that it holds some of the people closest and dearest to the Messenger of Allah, prayers and peace be upon him.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Farewell to Madinah

Today we leave for Makkah to visit the House of Allah in order to perform `umrah (the lesser pilgrimage). This morning after fajr, the brothers visited Jannah al-Baqi` in the company of Shaykh Yahya Rhodus and Shaykh Dawud Yasin and greeted the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them), some sahabah like Uthman ibn `Affan (may God be pleased with them) and some of the Imams of the Muslims like Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq and Imam Malik ibn Anas (may God have mercy on them).

Afterwards, people ate, packed, showered and changed in preparation for the group's departure for Makkah after Zuhr. Many of us tried to visit the rawda and greet the Prophet, peace be upon him, one last time before leaving. Some of us feel fear that we may never be able to return here again, but we have made intention to do so nonetheless.

May Allah unite us with al-Mustafa, peace be upon him, all who he loved and all who loved him, in Jannah al-Firdaws for all eternity.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Lava Tracts

On Monday, the first of Jumadi al-Thani, 654 A.H. (1256 A.D.), weak earth tremors were felt by some residents of Madinah. As the days went on, these tremors began to increase, that by the 5th day there were about 18 earthquakes in and around the area of Madinah. When the shaking ceased, the residents were horrified to see a lake of fire approaching the city from the area known as Harrat Rahat, approximately 19 km away from the city.

As the lava flow approached the city, black ash and gas clouds filled the sky. The light from the lava illuminated the night to the point that it was almost as bright as day.

On the 6th day, the residents of Madinah, including the women and the children, gathered at the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) mosque to pray to Allah to stop this impending doom. Even the jails were emptied to gather more people to pray at the mosque. People were encouraged to forgive one and other of their debts, the instruments were all ordered to be broken and the wine poured out, and even the slaves were freed.

By the dominion and power of Allah, the lava flow was diverted away from Madinah thus averting its complete distruction.

The students today had the opportunity to survey the lava tracts that were left from this event exactly 750 years ago. The lava tracts cover an area from north to south of about 310 km, and it has a width of about 75 km. It is a veritable wasteland; nothing grows or lives there, just mounds of jagged, black rock as far as the eyes can see.

Shaykh Hamza reminds us that this event had a connection to our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, who had predicted this event in one of his hadith. It is also a powerful sign of Allah, not simply because of its sheer magnitude, but that it shows the love Allah had for his beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and his city. To demonstrate the veracity of this miraculous event, Shaykh Hamza told us of a story that happened last year when the Saudi government brought in a western (non-Muslim) geologist to survey the lava tracts. They asked him why the lava flow had suddenly changed direction and did not head towards the city, which was occupying the lowland. The only explanation the geologist could give was that the prayers of the residents of the city were answered.

Farewell Session with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Shaykh Abdallah al-Kadi

In the evening, Shaykh Hamza and Shaykh Abdallah al-Kadi gave a farewell statement since Shaykh Abdallah had to leave. Shaykh Abdullah began by apologizing for anything that was wrong with the trips he had personally arranged for us. This caused the students to feel very touched and they were humbled by his sincere apology, given that he had worked so hard to arrange all those amazing trips. He then went on to give the students advice, and basically advised three things. First, he said we should have "rifq" with everyone. He described "rifq" as beautiful, good treatment. Next, he strongly advised the good treatment of women. He quoted a hadith which stated that the best of men are those who are best to their women and the most wretched of men are those who mistreat their women. Finally, he advised that we treat everyone with "rahmaa" or mercy. He also gave the students ijazah to transmit a hadith where the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that for those who show mercy, the Merciful One will show mercy to them: Have mercy for those in the earth and He who is in the heavens will have Mercy on you.
After that, Shaykh Hamza spoke. He said many things, and it is difficult to do justice to sum up what he said. First, he said that he doesn't personally know why we're here, but he assumes that we're here to be closer to Allah and that this should have been our goal. He said if we had a "good time" than Alhamdulillah, that's fine, but that's not why we we're here. We were here to draw closer to Allah. Shaykh Hamza also expressed a deep concern for the state of the Muslim Ummah. He said that people ask him how he became Muslim but that the real question is not how he became Muslim but why did he stay Muslim. He said the reason he stayed Muslim is because he met people like Shaykh Abdullah al-Kadi. The way he explained his friendship with Shaykh Abdallah was beautiful: it was very pure and without any contempt, malice, jealousy, or any human disease that would contaminate a friendship. Shaykh Hamza advised the students to continue their struggle to get closer to Allah and to spend their lives serving the Muslim Ummah. He said when we go back, we will see how empty our lives are, and we will be sitting with our friends and we will see how empty our conversations are. Shaykh Hamza also spoke about differences of opinions between the scholars, especially with respect to Muslims in the West. He said that there are facts in Islam and then there are opinions, and different shaykhs will have different opinions. He said that he, Shaykh Abdullah al-Kadi, and Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah all agree that there is a need for Muslims to be in the West. He also said that Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah said that you shouldn't sit with a non-Muslim without assuming that he is better than you because you don't know that person's station with Allah. That person could become Muslim and become a better Muslim than you are, and that this is the attitude that spread Islam.
Finally, Shaykh Hamza advised us to use our intellect. He said we can't always depend on others for all the answers. The beautiful thing about Islam is that it teaches you to use your intellect and to think for yourself. Sayyidina Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, taught people how to use their intellect. Sayyidah Aisha essentially grew up in his household, and she became a brilliant woman. He said our Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was an amazing human being, and he taught people how to be amazing themselves.
Many students cried very hard that day after the session in response to the truth of the words that were stated and the sincerity of the advice given and also because of a deep sense of loss, knowing that their time in Madinah was ending and knowing that the Rihla was also ending soon. Many spent the rest of their time in Medinah with a heavy heart.
After the talk there was not a dry eye in the room, as everyone witnessed the deep friendship and love Shaykh Hamza and Shaykh Abdallah had for one and other.

May Allah bless our Shuyukh and keep them with us for many years to come, amen.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mercy and Justice

This morning after fajr we visited the house of Sukayna bint Husayn, the grand-daughter of Ali ibn Abi Talib, may God be pleased with them all. After her father was killed at Karbala, she was unjustly ostracized from the Muslim community and compelled to move outside of Madinah to a place where there was no water. To keep from dying of thirst, she dug a well with her own hands. Today, the house stands ruined within the city limits of Madinah.

Among other places, we visited the ruins of the fortress of Ka`b ibn Ashraf, a wealthy and powerful Jewish chieftain who committed treason when he violated the alliance treaty of Madinah that he had agreed to with the Prophet, peace be upon him. For his treason, the Prophet peace be upon him is reported to have exacted retribution from him and his tribe on behalf of the Muslim community that had been betrayed and whose lives and property had been imperiled by his actions.

An important point to note about this historical event is that when the Prophet peace be upon him was in Makkah, he always forgave any harm others inflicted upon him. When he assumed state authority in Madinah, he had to implement justice to redress the wrongs suffered by his community of which he was now the representative. What was common to both Jewish and Islamic law at that time was the principle of proportionality. Since that Jewish tribe of Madinah engaged in treason and betrayal of the other inhabitants of Madinah, the men of that tribe were given capital punishment in accordance with the legal custom of the time. (Note that capital punishment is also the prescribed penalty for treason in modern America). In the prophetic tradition, all actions can be characterized by their correspondence with justice or with mercy. It may be said that Makkah was an arena for the manifestation of the prophetic mercy and Madinah was an arena for the manifestation of prophetic justice. In this way was the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him considered the messenger of the middle way.

In contrast to the story of Ka`b ibn Ashraf, there is the story of Muhayriq, a learned and pious Jewish man who was the only man of his people in Madinah to honour the pact that required all of its inhabitants to bear arms in order to repell any attackers of the city and its inhabitants. When the Prophet, peace be upon him saw Muhayriq striding forward onto the battlefield to honour the pact in his armour, with his shield ready and sword drawn, he said: huwa khayrul-Yahud ("He is the best of the Jews"). Muhayriq was killed in battle and his property was established as a charitable endowment (waqf) for the benefit of all the citizens of Madinah. When we visited this place, it was lush with vegetation and we were told the well water there was blessed and that many believed it to have healing properties. We drank from it and prayed for God to heal our bodies and our spirits with it.

*Partially adapted from the notes of Firdous Lopez (California, USA)

Shaykh Yahya Rhodus also continued his lectures from Imam al-Ghazali’s famous work Ayyuhal-Walad translated as “Dear Beloved Son.” Some points paraphrased from that lecture are as follows:

Even if you have excellent medicine, without treatment, no recovery can be achieved.

Remember often the Ender of Pleasures (i.e. death).

Take yourself to account before you are taken to account. Weigh your acts before they are weighed.

From the poets:

Though you measure 1000 bottles of wine
Unless you drink no thrill is thine

Be a walking Qur’an.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Seven Mosques and the Mosque of the Two Qiblahs

Today’s excursion took us to the location of the Battle of the Trench, or Khandaq, as well as some of the mosques that are associated with that battle, popularly known as “The Seven Mosques”.

The Seven Mosques, or al-Masajid al-Sab‘, mark the places where the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and his Companions, may Allah be pleased with him, stood guard during that battle. However, only three of the seven are confirmed as authentic: the Mosque of Victory, or Masjid al-Fath; the Mosque of Salman al-Farsi, and; the Mosque of the Banner, or Masjid al-Raya. Alhamdulillah we had chance to visit all these mosques and offer prayers in some of them.

Near the Mosque of Victory and the Mosque of Salman al-Farsi is also the Mosque of ‘Ali, where it is said that our beloved Messenger, peace be upon him, offered the first ‘Id al-Fitr and ‘Id al-Adha prayers. Later, ‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, led these prayers in the same location during the Caliphate of ‘Uthman, when the latter was besieged in his home by the rebels. Intimately connected to this story, we also visited the well that ‘Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him, purchased from the Jewish merchant in order to serve the Muslims during this battle. Shaykh Hamza gave a moving talk at this site, about the virtues of Caliph ‘Uthman, and how during the last days of his Caliphate he was refused water from the rebels who besieged his home, even though before he had selflessly provided water to the people of Madinah.

We finished our journey with a visit to the Mosque of the Two Qiblahs, or Masjid al-Qiblatayn, where the Prophet, peace be upon him, was ordered by Allah mid-prayer to change the qiblah from Jerusalem to Makkah.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Forgotten Mosques of Madinah

Today we had the very blessed opportunity to make ziyara to various mosques that had special significance to our beloved Messenger, peace be upon him. Setting off right after Fajr, the first mosque the students visited was the Mosque of Prostration, or Masjid al-Sajda. Popularly known also as Masjid Abu Dharr al-Ghifari (the reason for its being named after this Companion of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him is unknown), it marks the location where our beloved Messenger made a very lengthy prostration, as observed by the Companion Abd al-Rahman ibn Auf, may Allah be pleased with him.

Another Mosque that was visited was the Mosque of the Response, Masjid al-Ijaba, Where the Prophet of Allah, peace be upon him, made three requests to Allah of which two were answered.

Other Mosques visited were Masjid al-Dir‘, which was the location where the Prophet of Allah, peace be upon him, donned his armor before the Battle of Uhud; Masjid al-Mustarah, where the Prophet of Allah, peace be upon him, rested on his way back from Uhud; and Masjid al-Ghamama, where the Prophet of Allah, peace be upon him, prayed for rain, and his prayer was granted within the duration of two rak‘ats.

Alhamdulillah, we all got the opportunity to pray tahiyyat al-Masjid at these locations, where the blessed feet of Allah’s Messenger, peace be upon him, traversed. We are grateful to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Abdullah al-Kadi, and as well as Shaykh Mihr Ali for making this trip possible.

Mihr Ali Efendi

The students finished their trip by visiting the famous Ottoman train station built by one of the last great Sultans of the Muslim world, Sultan Abdulhamid Khan II, may Allah be pleased with him, which was recently renovated and is soon to open as a park.

In the evenings Shaykh Muhammad continued his teaching of the Shifa’, enlightening us on the rulings of giving Salawat on our Beloved Messenger, peace be upon him. We were also blessed that evening with another session of Qasidas with Munshid Ibn Eshaq al-Arfaj.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Loving the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)

The last few days consisted of a hectic schedule, and there was some free time these two days in the morning and early afternoon, so students spent time at the Masjid of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and also were able to spend some time resting. Shaykh Muhammad continued with his two sessions of the Shifa’ during the evenings and nights. He said that if you love someone, you want to be just like that person; otherwise, you are not fully true in your love. Thus, he advised the students that we should all strive to emulate the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, as much as possible. Shaykh Muhammad covered the sections in chapter two on the signs of loving the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, on the meaning and reality of love for the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and on the obligation of nasiha (advise) for the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him. He also covered the sections in chapter three related to exalting the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and the necessity to respect and honor him, peace and blessings of God be upon him. One of the things Shaykh Muhammad pointed out is that whenever Allah addresses the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, in the Qur’an, he does not address him by his name but uses instead, “O Prophet” or “O Messenger,” addressing him by his titles, whereas the other prophets are addressed by their names, such as Noah and Joseph. The only time his name, “Muhammad,” is used in the Qur’an is in verses that are about him, and he is not addressed in those verses. This is due to Prophet’s high rank, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and is an indication of the great respect he must be shown. Shaykh Muhammad gave several examples of the high regard that people, such as Imam Malik, had for the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him. The Qur’an commands people to show respect to the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him. For example, Allah says that people should not speak before the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, speaks. Another verse says not to speak loudly to him but to lower one’s voice or else all of a person’s good actions are erased from his record. When Sayyidna Abu Bakr heard this aya, he said that he would speak to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of God be upon him, as if he were disclosing a secret. Sayyidna Umar would speak to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of God be upon him, in a tone such that he would ask Sayyidna Umar to repeat what he was saying. Shaykh Muhammad added that of the Prophet’s companions, only Abu Bakr and Umar would raise their eyes to look at the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him.

Shaykh Muhammad praised Turkish people for having the highest level of adab (good manners) with the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and with the scholars, masjids, shariah, etc.

Shaykh Muhammad advised being in wudu’ as much as possible, especially while studying or teaching. He said that a good wudu’ is the key to a good prayer.