“Do they then not travel through the Earth, so that their minds gain wisdom and their ears thus learn to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts.” (Surah al-Hajj, Verse 46)
No amount of pictures will do justice to my journey, through this my journal reflections I hope Allah will enable us to grow closer to Him and increase our love and longing to visit al-Aqsa. For there is no other place apart from Makkah and Medina where one can find tranquility (Sakeenah) of the heart than here.
The Jewel of Jerusalem – Al Aqsa (The Farthest Mosque)
“Exalted is He who took His servant by night, from Makkah to the farthest mosque (al-Aqsa), the surroundings of which We had blessed – so that We might show him some of Our signs; for truly He alone is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.”
Surah Al-Isra, Chapter of The Night Journey, Verse 1
Alhamdulillah no amount of words can describe the sakeenah (tranquility) I felt after we spent 2 days travelling the lands in Jordan where the resting place of many Prophets also lies including the valley of Musa (as) who was sent to guide the children of Israel. On Thursday 25th May we traveled to the Israeli borders from Amman, about 26 of us and after being given a not so friendly welcome (not even a smile!) by border officers our passports were taken and we were just left to fill a form about why we were going to Jerusalem and then left for 6 hours in the waiting area of a small space at the border crossing. Many us hoped we wouldn’t get questioned and alhamdulillah most of us didn’t apart from an American traveler about why they go to Pakistan and why they are wearing the Jubba (modest long clothing for Muslim men).
At around 7pm a few of us got our passports with a pass from the State of Israel which was a small piece of paper looking like our ticket to al-Aqsa. I can’t tell you how elated we felt and happy that by Allah’s Grace & Mercy we got our pass! Although all the group hadn’t gotten their pass yet we prayed in congregation despite the fact the Israeli border officers looked on at us. We are after all proud and unapologetically Muslim. We prayed and together hoped rest of our group would get their pass as some of us went to the other side and waited on the coach for the rest to be let out.
After another hour or so of waiting – by now it was sunset, the rest of our team came out except Shaykh Shafi’ who was our (super cool I should add!) scholar on the trip. We were told he is being kept for questioning so the rest of our team left on the coach headed to Jerusalem with Shaykh Nazeer our blessed tour guide with 37 years guiding people in the region.
As we left the border we reflected how the waiting and anxiety of not knowing whether we would be allowed to visit our holy land was nothing compared to the torture and oppression that is faced by Palestinians each and every single day in the occupied sanctuary. So many Palestinian brothers and sisters I know personally have told me they live an hour away from al-Quds but the Israelis won’t allow them to visit as they don’t have an Israeli ID or pass. Yet they long and yearn to visit the blessed mosque which was the first qibla for the Muslims and the place where our Prophet l(peace and blessings be upon him) led all the Prophets in prayer on the Night Journey to the seven heavens where he met the other Prophets and was gifted with Salah from Allah to His Ummah. For indeed in prayer and the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.
We then left to head to our hotel and along the way the scenes of vast desert made us reflect on what an arduous journey the beloved Prophets must’ve made to get the message Allah sent them on earth with to be heard by their nations. The Prophets all came with one message – to believe in Allah and His Messengers. We then arrived at the hotel and we felt mesmerised Allah had finally brought us here. The golden dome of al-Aqsa was in sight from our balcony! There was a sense of calm and peace I felt here like nowhere before.
It was almost midnight and we waited to hear if the Shaykh had been let out of detention at the borders who were interested in knowing more about his scholarly acquaintances and his views on the recent Manchester attacks. Thankfully alhamdulillah he was given his pass and we were so relieved when he finally made it joined the rest of the group.
The morning of Friday at Fajr we headed to the blessed mosque of al-Aqsa and it it is only by Allah’s Grace and His Infinite Mercy that I was there. I can’t explain how grateful I was for Him bringing me to His blessed land at Masjid al-Aqsa where there is not an inch that an angel or Prophet has not trodden (Tirmidhi). The moment I clasped eyes on the Dome of the Rock – I knew I was somewhere special and as we walked back from Fajr prayer I felt like the happiest person in the world. The gentle breeze and calm and peace surrounds the Jewel of Jerusalem. This standalone blue jewel of Jerusalem is where the Prophet went on his journey was magical under the starry night sky.
Friday Prayers at al-Aqsa
Jumu’ah in al-Aqsa the day before Ramadan was a special feeling like no other, after getting an historical tour of the al-Aqsa compound the recitation of Surah Kahf surrounds the mosque. As I sat under the Dome of the Rock where the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is said to have ascended to the seven heavens as mentioned in the Qur’an in Surah al-Isra, I felt the sublimity and awe of Allah’s magnificence. He sent down the Qur’an in this blessed month as a guidance for all mankind and indeed in the Messenger of Allah is the most perfect example for us.
After praying Jumu’ah, we got together with some of the local Palestinian children who were out playing football to come join us in our special Ramadan Kareem video from al-Aqsa. Check it out on Sakeenah Tours Facebook page! It was so special and in that moment I truly felt us stand together as a family in this Ummah.
Welcoming Ramadan in al-Aqsa
The spirit of Ramadan is best captured in al-Aqsa as the ancient cobbled streets of stone are decorated with colourful lights and men and boys sell freshly made food on the sides of as you walk to the mosque. The adhan goes and although there aren’t that many people filling the mosque in these first days of Ramadan, many hurry towards the golden dome for night prayers. For it is said the reward of a prayer in al-Aqsa is 500 times that of anywhere else.
Taraweeh prayers are a divine and spiritually elevating experience in al-Aqsa; one can only feel moved by the soothing recitation by the Imams and the rest of the world and all it’s injustices and all it’s problems just disappear for that moment when you are standing before the King of the Worlds – Allah (Glorified & Exalted is He!). If you come to al-Aqsa seeking only to worship Allah, then be prepared to feel felicity and tranquility. In that moment after prayer and reflecting on the verses from the Quran, I felt my heart beat so loudly like never before and in a state of tranquility. Indeed in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest as Allah says in Surah ar-Ra’ad!
Under the Dome of the Rock there lies a gold cased cabinet where the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings be upon him) footprints from the night of ascension and 2 hairs of his beard are stored. The smell of sweet musk wafts through and as one takes in this journey Allah brings you on you can not help but feel an overwhelming love for our beloved Messenger as you stand there. I wished I could just stay there under the dome near his footsteps forever. Standing on the warm stone of the grounds of al-Aqsa under the night sky and feeling the gentle breeze is something I miss so much.
The Forgotten Land
The people of Palestine are so strong – despite the oppression and injustice they face as the Imam of Masjid al-Aqsa said they know the victory of Allah is near. The dua qunoot is recited with such power and might that the oppressor should fear the punishment that awaits for indeed the dua of the oppressed is always answered. Our true test as an Ummah and as the privileged Muslims of the West is to have the level of conviction in faith that the people of the blessed and holy land have. I fear that with our freedoms and liberties which they are stripped of – we are being tested in our faith by them.
The Prophet Muhammad said for us to fix an evil with our hands, and if we can not then with our tongue by speaking out and failing that we should make dua and that is the weakest of faith. I met so many Palestinians who felt we had forgotten them and although we reassured them we haven’t, if we truly love a people then we go visit them.
So this is my plea to you all – make dua and go visit the blessed land of Palestine so that our brothers and sisters gain strength by the numbers who visit them and that they know we are one Ummah and we do stand with them. May Allah grant victory to the people of Palestine, may He grant us all the ability to visit His blessed lands and may we be forgiven for our shortcomings and our good deeds accepted for His Sake alone. Ameen.
Read more about my Journey to the Land of the Prophets on the Sakeenah Tours blog: http://sakeenahtours.com/sakeenah-tours-blog/
Lotifa Begum, May 2017, Jerusalem