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.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Qur'an Complex

Today the students were invited to an exclusive visit of the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, the central hub for the printing, translation, and distribution of the last revelation to humankind.

This massive complex uses state-of-the-art technology to produce millions of copies of the Qur’an every year which are distributed all over the world. The complex also oversees the translation of the Holy Qur’an in other languages, of which so far 35 translations have been made.

We were all immensely impressed by the great care and professionalism the complex and its staff take in preserving the honor of Allah’s Holy book.

At the end of the trip the staff at the complex gave each and every student a copy of the Holy Qur’an, as well as a complete set of the recitation of the Qur’an on audio cassette. Some students even got copies that were translated into languages other than English, such as Persian, Urdu, and Turkish.

For more information about the complex, visit their website at: www.qurancomplex.com

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Quba, Jumu'ah, and al-Nur

The students left for another fieldtrip at around six in the morning. First, they visited Masjid Quba and prayed there. Next, they went to Masjid Jumu’ah and also prayed there. One feels blessed, awed, and honored to pray in the masjids where the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, prayed.

The next stop was at the well of ‘Athq. One of the shaykhs in Medina welcomed the students with a delicious breakfast comprised of refreshing water from the well, fresh yogurt, wholesome bread, and sweet Medina dates. The Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, had stopped there and had dates and water.

Finally, the trip ended with a stop at Masjid al-Nur. Two sahabah had been studying there when it got too dark for them to see, so the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, gave them his walking stick, which provided light so they were able to see. There is also a well there.

Later in the day, at around five in the afternoon, Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqubi continued with his Shifa’ class. He went over chapter two, section one, entitled, “Concerning the necessity of loving him.” Shaykh Muhammad said that the Qur’an warns that one should beware if one gives priority to the dunya (world) over Allah and His Messenger, peace and blessings of God be upon him (see Qur’an 9:25). The Shaykh quoted a hadith in which the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, states, “None of you is a believer until I am more beloved to him than his children, his father, and all people.” Shaykh Muhammad provided as an example an incident involving Abu Bakr: One of his sons, Abd al-Rahman, had not yet become Muslim at the time of the Battle of Badr. After the battle, he told his father that he avoided killing him during the battle. Abu Bakr responded that if he had the opportunity to kill his son, he would have. Shaykh Muhammad explained that the reason for this was that Abu Bakr wanted to protect the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him. Since, at that time, like the rest of the non-Muslims at the battle, Abd al-Rahman was a threat to the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, Abu Bakr would not have hesitated to kill his own son in order to protect the Messenger of God, peace and blessings of God be upon him. Shaykh Muhammad continued the Shifa’ class at around 9:30, after the night prayer, and covered section two, “On the reward of loving the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him,” and section three, “On what is related from the Salaf and the Imams about their love for the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and their yearning for him.”

Friday, August 11, 2006

Jumu'ah Mubarak

Today was our first Friday in Madinah. The students, many for the first time, had the great fortune to pray Jumu‘ah prayers in the Mosque of Rasul Allah, peace be upon him.

Shaykh Abdallah al-Kadi informed the students that they would be going to Masjid Quba and Masjid Jumu’ah the next day, in sha Allah. He said that if one prays in Masjid Quba and performs wudu (ablution) before leaving the house with the intention of praying there, one is rewarded as though one made Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage).

Shaykh Abdallah also spoke about Masjid al-Jumu’ah, which received its name because it is the first place that the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, prayed the Friday prayer (jumu’ah).

In the Shifa’ of Qadi Iyyad class, Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqubi began with some singing and asked the students to join in. He continued with part two of the Shifa’, which he had begun yesterday. Part two is entitled, “Concerning the rights which people owe the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him.” Shaykh Muhammad covered section two, entitled, “The obligation to obey him” and explained that it is impossible to obey Allah without following the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and that the way to follow the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, is to follow one of the four madhabs (schools of jurisprudence): the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi, or Hambali school. Shaykh Muhammad quoted some beautiful hadith. He said that the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, said, “Anyone who obeys me has obeyed Allah. Anyone who disobeys me has disobeyed Allah. Anyone who obeys my commander has obeyed me.” And, “All my ummah (community) will enter Paradise except for anyone who refuses.” Abu Hurayra asked the Messenger who will refuse to enter Paradise. The Prophet, peace and blessings of God replied, “Anyone who obeys me will enter Paradise. Anyone who disobeys me has refused to enter Paradise.”

Shaykh Muhammad also spoke about the three signs of a believer:

1) Allah and His Messenger are dearer to the believer than anything or anyone else.

2) The believer dislikes people solely for the sake of Allah and similarly likes them for His sake alone.

3) The believer dislikes the state of kufr as much as he dislikes being thrown in the Fire.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Journey to Mount Uhud

After the first dawn prayer in Medina, students took a trip to Mount Uhud. They climbed al-Jabl al-Rumah (the Mountain of the Archers), and Shaykh Hamza translated for a local Shaykh who told the story of the Battle of Uhud. It is the place where the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, himself strategically stationed fifty archers. He told them to remain at their post no matter what happened until he relieved them. However, after some time, it appeared to the archers that the Muslims had won, and forty of the archers left, as they wanted to get the spoils of war. Because of this, the Quraysh were able to kill the remaining ten, and they then came into the area of the Muslims from behind. Many of the great Sahaba were severely wounded or killed thereafter. Among those killed was the Prophet’s beloved uncle, Sayyidina Hamzah. The Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, was also wounded during the battle.

After the Shaykh’s talk, everyone climbed down the mountain and went to a gravesite where some of the martyrs of Uhud are burried. The Lion of Allah, Sayyidina Hamzah is among those buried there. Soon after, the bus took the students to the area of Mount Uhud where Talha carried the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, after he had been wounded. While Shaykh Hamza and the male students climbed the mountain to the area where the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, took refuge, Shaykh Abdallah al-Kadi showed the women the place on Uhud where the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, had prayed.

That afternoon, back at the hotel, Shaykh Hamza spoke about the sanctity of Medina and warned students to be extremely cautious since, like Mecca, Medina is a sanctuary, and actions hold greater weight in those two cities. He told students not to look down upon anyone, not to complain, to be grateful for the immense blessing of being in Medina and all other blessings, and to prefer others to themselves. He encouraged them to pray for others often, rather than praying for themselves because when you supplicate for others, the angels make the same supplication for you, and the angels’ prayers are mustajab (answered).

That evening, Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi arrived, and, after the sunset prayer, he began his first class on the Shifa’ of Qadi Iyad. He explained that the book is a cure from diseases of the heart and from illnesses of the body. The Shifa’ was one of the four most circulated books in the Muslim world until the last century.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Arrival in Madina

Alhamdulillah, the students arrived today in the blessed city of Medina. Before departing, everyone was excited as they prepared to leave for the City of Light, where the Best of Creation resides, peace and blessings of God be upon him. The classes in Jeddah had prepared the students for Medina and for visiting the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him. As Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah said, in order to love someone you must know him. The classes served that purpose perfectly. Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah’s Seerah classes which Shaykh Hamza translated, Shaykh Abdallah al-Kadi’s Wives of the Prophet classes, and Imam Zaid’s hadith classes were all very helpful in increasing the students’ longing and love for the Prophet, peace be upon him. In addition to these classes, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah taught special sessions on a topic to which few western students have access: Objectives of the Shariah, which Shaykh Hamza translated. Finally, Shaykh Hamza’s class on Imam al-Ghazzali’s Alchemy of the Heart served to help students know how to purify their inward states.

After a week’s worth of intensive study in Jeddah, the students were looking forward to the next section of the program—spending time in Medina. As the bus arrived at the Medina hotel, it was close to sunset time, and most students rushed to catch Asr prayer at the Prophet’s Mosque. Seeing the masjid was breathtaking, and the students were overjoyed.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Question and Answer Session with Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah

During our last night in Jeddah, Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah graciously gave some time in doing a question and answer session, with Imam Zaid Shakir acting as translator. Shaykh Abdallah answered questions that were collected from students during the week as well as questions that were prepared from Muslims living in the UK and North America. These questions were directly related to issues of living and practicing Islam in the West, and it is for this reason that the answers provided by the Shaykh will be published soon, InshaAllah. Check back later for more details.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

For the love of our children...

Imam Zaid continued with the book, Muhammad Rasulullah. The first section he covered was “Examples of how relationships produce good and not to forget those relationships.” One such example is after the death of his beloved wife Sayyidah Khadija, may God be pleased with her. He never forgot the good between them and always maintained ties with her family and friends. This shows the importance of being aware and cognizant of relationships that one has established, and the necessity to preserve them. Every Muslim is sacred to another Muslim, and that sanctity should be maintained even after death because relationships are established in the sanctity of Allah and are a blessing from Him.

The next section he covered was “Dealing with children and light times with them.” It illustrated how loving he was with children, and how he used to play with them. The section covered many beautiful examples. One example is narrated by Abdullah b. al-Harith, may God be pleased with him; he said the Messenger of God, peace and blessings of God be upon him, would have the children of Abbas, may God be pleased with him, line up and tell them “Whoever races to me first gets such and such.” Then they would race to him and fall upon his back and chest, and he would kiss them and hold onto them. Another narration from Abu Hurayrah, may God be pleased with him, said that the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, took the hand of Hasan or Husayn (may Allah be pleased with them both) and placed the boy’s feet on top of his feet, and he told the boy to climb, so he climbed until he placed his feet on the Prophet’s chest, peace and blessings of God be upon him. Then the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, said, “Open up your mouth,” and he kissed him and said, “O Allah, love him, for I love him.”

The following section Imam Zaid covered was “His visiting the downtrodden and Ahl al-Suffah.” The Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, used to visit the poor and downtrodden, especially Ahl al-Suffah, out of compassion and to increase sociability. He would visit their sick, attend their funerals, and extend barakah to them, so they could feel endearment, dignity, and felicity. From this, we learn that we should look for the poor in our communities and visit them to make them happy, and, as a result, we will see so many more openings in our lives.

The last section that Imam Zaid covered was “His great humility with his Companions.” The Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, is the perfect example of humility despite his high station and noble rank. His humility is apparent in all the different aspects of his life. In a hadith related by Sayyidah Aisha, may God be pleased with her, she says, “He used to sew his own garments and repair his own sandals, and he used to do what men do in their homes.” Imam Zaid stressed how the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, served himself and didn’t depend on others to do things for him. However, because people loved to do things for him and wanted to gain the blessings of serving him, he allowed them to do so.

The next class was taught by Shaykh Abdullah al-Kadi about the wives of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. Shaykh Abdullah quoted the verse “O wives of the Prophet, you are not like other women” and said it was because of the attachment to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. He had a total of eleven wives; ten of them were Arab, six of which were from Quraysh. Shaykh Abdullah started speaking about the first wife of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, Sayyidah Khadija, may God be pleased with her.

She was 40 years old when she married the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, who was 25. She was the only wife to give him children. She lived with him until he was 50 years old, the longest time of any of his wives. She truly loved and honored the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. She would wait by the door to greet him when he would come home and hold his hand and put it on her chest out of love and respect. When the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to go into seclusion in Cave Hira’, she used to come to him with provisions, but because of his concern for her safety, he would meet her half way. She was the first person to believe and support the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. When Quraysh boycotted Bani Hashim, although she was not part of that clan, she went with the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and suffered as he suffered. The year she and the uncle of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, Abu Talib, passed away was named “The year of sadness.”

Out of everything Shaykh Abdullah mentioned, there was nothing that showed any form of disputation or disagreement between her and the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. Shaykh Abdullah said that she was a perfect wife and a complete woman. She was the only wife to be given salaam by Allah and Angel Gabriel. In a narration from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, he mentions her among the four best women. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, did not marry another woman during her lifetime. Some scholars say its because Allah wanted to protect her from jealousy and the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, did not want to break her heart. May God be pleased with her.

After the heart warming session with Shaykh Abdullah al-Kadi, we had a spiritually uplifting session with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf about The Alchemy of Happiness. He started the class by giving a short biography of the blessed author, Hujjatul-Islam, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, may Allah have mercy on him. Imam al-Ghazali showed his genius early on and wrote more than 200 works over his lifetime. He became arrogant because of his fame, superior knowledge, and his holding the highest position a professor could have. In his late 30s, he began to have an internal crisis and realized he was teaching things that he himself was not practicing. One day, he went to teach his class and couldn’t bring himself to speak. The doctors came to his home and concluded that the problem was not with his body but with his soul.

Imam al-Ghazali then realized that his high position in society was detrimental to his soul and was causing him to feel arrogant. He knew he had to give it all up in order to save his soul. So after insuring that his family was provided for, he set on a journey to Hajj. Instead of returning home, he stayed away traveling for ten years. He worked mundane jobs such as being a book copier and a janitor in the Umayyid Mosque in Damascus. It was during this time away that he wrote his remarkable work Ihya Ulum al-Deen, a book that is considered by most scholars to be one of the greatest Islamic works ever. After his travels, he returned, and people realized that he was completely transformed and there was no longer any arrogance in him. He died six years after he returned to his home.

Allah elevated Imam al-Ghazali because he chose to debase himself. He was introspective of his various states and was very cautious to avoid any state that could lead him away from Allah. His teacher, Imam al-Juwayni, may God be pleased with him, said that Imam al-Ghazali was an ocean. His knowledge was vast, not only in the outward aspects of Islam, but also the spiritual aspects. The Alchemy of Happiness was one of the many books that dealt with the spiritual aspects and our connection with Allah. Shaykh Hamza covered the first chapter entitled “Chapter on knowledge of the self.” In this chapter, Imam al-Ghazali says, “The key to knowledge of Allah is the knowledge of yourself.” We know our outer selves, but we don’t know our internal states. It’s an obligation on us to know ourselves, and know where we come from. He tells us that there are certain qualities that have been gathered in us, and in these are the qualities of ruminants, predators, demons, and angels. Each of these qualities has nourishment and joy if balanced.

The day concluded with a wonderful class given by Shaykh Abd Allah b. Bayyah translated by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. After summarizing for us what was covered on the previous day, Shaykh Abd Allah b. Bayyah spoke about the three pillars of seerah, being, time, place, and population. He started by defining the time period for the birth of the Prophet, may God’s peace and blessing be upon him, to be the sixth century in the Year of the Elephant. Scholars have differed on the exact birth day of the Prophet, may God’s peace and blessing be upon him, but the dominant opinion is the 12th of Rabi’ al-Awal, which was calculated to be April 20 or 22 of the year 571. This time period was called Jahiliyah (ignorance).

The place of his birth was the Arabian peninsula and more specifically Mecca. Mecca was the first place for people to worship. It is narrated that the Ka’ba was initially built by the angels for Adam, may God’s peace be upon him, and then Ibrahim, may God’s peace be upon him, later renovated it. It was not a hospitable place, which didn’t encourage imperialism.

The population was comprised of Arabs. There are three different types of Arabs, Arab Ba’idah which are extinct, Arab al-‘Aribah (original Arabic speakers), and al-Musta’ribah (those who learned Arabic from the Jurhum tribe) which are the ‘Adnaniyun. The Arabs of Mecca where the sons of Isma’il, may God’s peace be upon him.

The birth of the Prophet, may God’s peace and blessing be upon him, was surrounded by events, from the fire of Zoroastrians being put out, and the idol falling. He was born to a noble family with a praiseworthy lineage. His lineage goes back to ‘Adnan, and by consensus He goes back to Isma’il and Ibrahim, may God’s peace be upon both of them. It was a dark period of time waiting for the light to come and that was the prophet, may God’s peace and blessing be upon him. The whole cosmos where in a state of joy when the Prophet, may God’s peace and blessing be upon him, was born.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Muhammad: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him)

After praying Fajr and reciting the wird and Surah Yasin, Imam Zaid began his class reading from a book entitled, Muhammad Rasul Allah, by Shaykh Abdullah Siraj al-Deen. The first section Imam Zaid covered concerned the exalted character of the Messenger of God, peace and blessings of God be upon him. This section described how he was exalted from every aspect, including his forbearance, magnanimity, generosity, courage, humility, shyness, manners, and mercy. The Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, was the most beautiful physical creation and the most perfect in character.

Sayyidah Aishah was asked how the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, was at home. She said he was constantly smiling and was gentle. In another hadith she said he was in the service of his family.

The next section discussed his joking and playing with those in his company.

For example, he would race with his wife, Sayyidah Aishah. He did this twice and called others to come and watch. The first time, Sayyidah Aishah was light and fast on her feet, so she beat him. Later, when she gained some weight, they raced again, and he beat her and said that this race was for the previous one.

The Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, also sometimes joked with the companions. However, in his jokes, he always spoke the truth. He was not a person of empty jest and empty jest was not from him. He joked with his companions to lift their spirits. For example, once Umm Ayman al-Habashiyyah came and told the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, that her husband was calling for him. The Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, responded asking if he was the one with white in his eye. She denied that he had white in his eye, assuming the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, was referring to a cataract. However the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, continued to say that he thought her husband did indeed have white in his eye. She insisted that her husband had no white in his eye. Upon this, the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, laughed and responded, “Doesn’t everyone have white in their eyes?”

In addition, the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, used to play with children. He also used to give children nicknames. For example, he called one child Aba Umayr and said to him when his bird died, “O Aba Umayr, what did the bird do?” (Ya Aba Umayr, ma fa’ala al-nughayr?) Imam Shafi’i derived 40 rulings from this hadith, and other scholars derived over 100 from it. For example, the permissibility to give children nicknames, of having pets as long they are not mistreated, and to joke as long as it is not excessive.

Imam Zaid spoke of the importance of balance between serving Allah and serving the family. He stated that anything that is excessive will lead to distortion. He also warned that tyranny in the family translates into tyranny in society.

The next class was a Seerah class taught by Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah, which was translated by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah began the class by talking about what the Seerah is and why we study it. It is the path in all aspects of the Messenger of God, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and a proof of his truthfulness and the message. The Seerah teaches us two things:

  1. virtuous nature (akhlaq)
  2. love of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him.

It teaches us how our soul is connected to the Messenger of God, peace and blessings of God be upon him. The Prophet’s life itself is a miracle. His life had clarity and comprehensiveness; the Seerah covers all aspects of his life. We know a great deal about the Messenger of God, peace and blessings of God be upon him. We know his lineage, all of his relatives, his journeys, how he slept, the names of his animals, how he laughed, how he cried, and more. When Sayyidah Aishah was asked about his character, she stated that his character embodied the Qu’ran. We cannot call him only a mujahid or a qadi or a legislator or a merchant or a religious man or a husband or a father because it isn’t enough; he was all of them and more. He gathered all of the virtues of all the previous messengers, peace be upon them.

Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah then spoke about how the Seerah was transmitted to us. He said there are four sources to the Seerah:

  1. The primary source is the Qur’an, which describes his interactions with his companions and wives and his miracles.
  2. Another source is the hadith. It gives great detail about the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him. If you want to know the Seerah, read the hadith
  3. Another source is the battles (maghazi) that the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, fought in.
  4. Finally, the last source is history books. The Qur’an says, “Surely there are lessons in those that preceded you.” Previous books indicated the prophecy of Sayyidina Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him.

The Shaykh stated that hadith literature has been preserved by great scholars. People of other faiths, such as Bosworth Smith, have marveled at the hadith books, stating that nothing like them exists. The Shaykh stated that this could be found in Smith’s book Mohammad and Mohammadism (14). In summation, the hadith are unparalleled in their clarity, extreme scrupulousness and detail.

The next class was a very pleasant surprise. Shaykh Abdallah al-Kadi came in to speak to the students after having just stepped off a plane. The students were delighted to see him. Many had heard about his gentle and compassionate nature and his humility. His presence surpassed their expectations. After apologizing for not being dressed appropriately or prepared to teach the class, which he said he held in high-esteem, he welcomed the students and gave a brief introduction to the class that he would be teaching; it would be about the wives of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him.

Shaykh Abdallah mentioned Surat al-Ahzab (the Confederates) which, among other things, deals with the Mothers of the Believers (umahat al-mumineen). They are not like other women; they have different obligations because they are attached to the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him. For example, they could not marry after the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, because of his sanctity.

Shaykh Abdallah also discussed the importance of implementing what we learn because we will be taken to account for what we know. He ended by reiterating the importance of taking Sayyidina Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, as our example. The Qur’an says, “You have indeed in the Messenger of God an excellent example for he who hopes in God and the Final Day and who remembers God much,” and “Surely you [Prophet] are on a vast ethos.” Shaykh Abdallah urged the students to preserve their faith by practicing the Sunnah at home because the home is where social problems begin. Marital problems lead to social problems, which can ultimately lead to the collapse of society.

Shaykh Abdallah stated that the focus of his class would be on the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and the manner in which he lived and dealt with his wives.

It was wonderful to end the day with seeing and hearing Shaykh Abdallah al-Kadi, and students left looking forward to his classes.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah

A special welcoming session was on tap for the students of knowledge. The students were honored immensely with the presence of Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah. Shaykh Abdallah was extremely warm and welcoming. With translation by Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Abdallah spoke about the importance of seeking knowledge. He said a moment spent in seeking knowledge is better than spending it in voluntary prayers. Seeking knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim, and one should hasten to do it. Once one has learned something, one should hasten to act on it and hasten to spread it. Angels lower their wings for believers seeking knowledge, and whales seek forgiveness for them. Shaykh Abdallah said to seek knowledge before it passes away from you and scholars die off. He quoted a hadith, which states that when Allah desires good for a person, He gives that person a sound understanding of the religion. He ended the class welcoming them again with warm greetings, particularly to the sisters, and repeatedly said, “Ahlan wa Sahlan.”

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Our Rihla to Allah (swt) and His Messenger (s)

The day began with Fajr prayer followed by the recitation of the litany (wird al-Lateef) and Yasin, and each subsequent day would also commence this same way. After the recitation of Yasin, Imam Zaid did the opening class, Introduction to the Rihla, in which he defined rihla as a journey. He said that when we realize this world is not our home, this is the beginning of the journey to Allah. This world is not our home. Our home is Paradise. A hadith says to exist in this world as a stranger or wayfarer.

Another hadith states that if you detach your heart from the world, Allah will love you. And if you detach yourself from the affairs of people, they will love you. The believer has two qualities: humility and consciousness of Allah (taqwa). The higher journey (hijrah) to Allah is rooted in love, of which there are two types:

1) moving away from that which is hated to that which is loved
2) moving from that which is loved to what is more loved

What we get from Allah is what we give. Imam Zaid then spoke about the journey (rihla) to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. There are two categories of this rihla:

1) the physical journey to Medina
2) the higher journey—following the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in all he brought.

According to a hadith, the world is the prison for the believer and the paradise of the disbeliever. Imam Zaid ended the class with some prayers, and said, “There is no refuge nor shelter from You [Allah] except to You.”

Though Imam Zaid’s class was early in the morning, it was a pleasure to attend, as so much was gained: his humor and levity kept the students engaged, and they left with a sense of warmth in their hearts, happy to start their day with Imam Zaid.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Visiting our Mother Hawaa' (a)

Tuesday, August 1st

The next day, students were given time to rest and recuperate from jetlag, so nothing was scheduled for the morning. At around 4:30 in the afternoon, students took a bus tour in which they visited the grave of Eve (Hawwa’), peace be upon her, and saw several masjids, a beach, camels, and more. They returned to the hotel around Maghrib time, had dinner, and prepared for classes to begin the next day.