Summer Sojourn in Magical Madinah
Read Part 1 here.
Fri 20 Jul 2007
I spent the night at the hotel reception reading the Qur’an and Dala’il as the masjid was closed after isha’ prayers for cleaning (2012 update: On ascending the throne, King Abdullah famously issued the decree to keep Masjid al-Nabawi open 24 hours – may Allah bless him for that). I went to the Masjid at about 3.30 am to secure a place at the “heavenly meadow” [rawdatu-l jannah] for the dawn prayer [salatu-l fajr].
Post Fajr, I was ready to be knocked out when a beautiful looking Arab man, immaculately dressed with an Emirati style headgear, came up to me and asked, “’Aina Rasuli-Llah? (Where is the Messenger of Allah?)”
Blood rushed to my head. It is not every day that one gets asked this question. What greater honour can there be then to bring someone to meet Habib al-Mustafa (Allah bless him and give him peace) in Masjid al-Nabawi (may Allah protect her and her guests) for the first time?
With all tiredness gone, spotting a wide smile on my face and a spring in my step, I took him by hand to greet Habib al-Mustafa. As we approached the sepulchre wherein rests the Paragon and his companions, I whispered, “There is Rasulu-Llah (Allah bless him and give him peace). Next to him is Sayyidi Abu Bakr ‘Abdullah al-Siddiq and next to him is Sayyidi Abu Hafs ‘Umar al-Faruq (may Allah be pleased with them both).”
I nudged him closer to the gate that separates visitors from the blessed resting abodes and went out after greeting Habib al-Mustafa and his companions. I stood outside waiting for the Arab gentleman to come. But he did not turn up. He just vanished. It was one-way human traffic – so there was no way he could have turned back. After the conversation on Al-Khidr (peace be upon him) last night with Dr. Mustafa, I was tempted to ask, “Was that Al-Khidr sent to test me in my sleepless stupor?”
We set off quite early to the Masjid for the Friday prayer [salatu-l jumu’ah]. We sat at our usual spot in the courtyard. Post prayer, Rafa announced with excitement, “Habib Zain’s here!” My heart started racing. We stood and waited in his line of sight. As he walked pass us, we greeted him without extending our hands. He enthusiastically replied with a smile.
Habib Zain b. Ibrahim b. Sumait is an erudite Shafi’i scholar resident in Madinah. It is no exaggeration to say that he is the leading authority of the Shafi’i madhab in this age. He runs a traditional Ribat that is in the same mould as the Ribats in Hadhramawt, Yemen. Students from around the world, most notably from South East Asia, are studying under the auspices of the distinguished Sharif.
In the Prophet’s Mosque [masjidu-n nabawi], there are strict protocols about greeting Habib Zain. No kissing of hands and the like. The Wahhabi/Salafi hoodlums, under the guise of the mutaween, are ever on the lookout to make life difficult for Habib Zain for he is one of those “Soofees”. We had been well-advised from before to just greet him and leave. (2012 update: we understand that the Ribat has been closed down by the Saudi authorities and that the noble Sharif is back in Indonesia due to the persecution meted out to him)
It is said that Sheikh Nuh Keller (may Allah protect him) once remarked that after his teacher in Fiqh, Sheikh Abdul Wakil Durubi (may Allah have mercy on him) had passed away, there was no one he could take Fiqh from. This was the case until he met Habib Zain who has since become a focal point for Sheikh Nuh in matters of Fiqh.
Rafa said, “Sheikh Muhsin al-Najjar once famously declared that if Sunnis were still ruling the Hijaz, Habib Zain would have been Madinah’s governor!” May Allah protect Habib Zain and all our righteous scholars.
We also met Sidi Faiz, our Indonesian contact resident in Madinah. Sidi Faiz, with his beautiful Far Eastern ‘adab and infectious bubbly nature, is a wonderful friend. He drove us to Badr when we were here last. He mentioned that Habib Zain’s schedule had changed and told us to contact him to arrange a visit to the Ribat.
We love the courtyard of Masjid al-Nabawi. It is a blessed place indeed. It is here that one sees true lovers congregate before walking towards His (and their) beloved, salla-Llahu alaihi wa sallam.
We got wind of news that Imam Zaid Shakir had finally arrived after the tumultuous event of losing his bag and passport a couple of weeks earlier. We went back to the hotel and saw the gentle giant, Imam Zaid, sitting at a table. We greeted him and went to have lunch.
Post ‘Asr, we met a Khadim of the late widely acknowledged Qutb of Madinah, Sheikh Muhammad Zakariyya al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on his soul. Upon hearing that I was from Singapore, he whipped out a name card of a Trustee of a mosque in Singapore and asked if I knew him. I could not help but be amazed at how people get connected by virtue of their mutual love for the friends of Allah [awliya Allah]. Indeed, souls are like marshalled soldiers!
Post Maghrib, on our way back to the hotel we saw Sheikh Abdullah al-Kadi. We trailed him all the way from the Masjid to the hotel not wanting to disturb his conversation with his companion. When we reached the hotel restaurant, he turned around and saw Rafa and me. He warmly embraced and welcomed us. He invited us to a trip the following morning.
Sheikh Abdullah al-Kadi is a gem. Born in Al-Ahsa, the Sunni stronghold of Saudi Arabia, he is one of those righteous scholars who has not been tainted by the wahhabi/salafi fitna. Sheikh Nuh Keller once said, “If one has the ‘adab of Sheikh Abdullah al-Kadi, one would not need a Sheikh in Tasawwuf.” May Allah protect him and increase him.
Quote of the day:
“If you’ve to find what matches the Hijab, then that is no longer a Hijab”
– Rafa recalling Umm Sahl (Shaikh Nuh Keller’s blessed wife) talk about women’s comportment.
Sat 21 Jul 2007
After another sleepless night, we came back after Fajr to the hotel shattered. Rafa’s eye infection was not getting any better. It was not getting any worse either. That was a good sign.
We met Imam Zaid after breakfast. He mentioned that amongst the things he had lost was his copy of the Dala’il al-Khairat. We took that as a cue and gifted him a new copy of the Dala’il.
Post Dhuhr, we went to Uhud with a friend from Cardiff, Sidi Haider Ali. Uhud is a special place with extra-special occupants. We greeted Sayyidina Hamza and the Uhud martyrs, may Allah be well pleased with them. We then proceeded to the cave where Habib al-Mustafa, Allah bless him and give him peace, had rested after his blessed tooth had been broken during the battle of Uhud. Peace and serenity envelopes that place.
One of the miraculous things we witnessed, as in previous trips, was the amazing scent that wafted from the cave. Some claim that it is the scent of the blood of Habib al-Mustafa that fell in the cave. If the sweat of the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) was collected for use as perfume, then there is no reason to dispute the claim that the blessed blood of the best of creation smells sweeter.
It is extremely sad and heart-wrenching to witness the derelict condition of the graves, monuments and signs associated with the “Days of Allah”. The early communities took great care to preserve anything remotely associated with the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace). Whether it was his blessed hair or his house in Makkah, respect and dignity were accorded. Today, that sanctity has given way to a sacrilegious attitude. This is mainly to do with the fact that petro-dollars have been effectively used to permeate the poisonous thought, “There is no difference between the Prophet and us…” through the psyche of the masses.
Coupled with that, the salafis’/wahhabis’ insecurity of their faith has resulted in a warped understanding of Tawhid where preserved signs of Islam and the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace) are feared of becoming objects of worship, despite our beloved Prophet’s emphatic declaration: “By Allah! I am not afraid that after me you will worship others besides Allah, but I am afraid that you will start competing for (the pleasures of) this world. [al-Bukhari]” But they do not have a problem with preserving the relics of their leaders who arose in rebellion against the Ottoman Caliphs.
One simply cannot understand the logic behind destroying and not preserving priceless vestiges of Islamic history while building a glorified theme park to teach Prophetic biography and Islamic history to visitors. Worse, while remnants of Islamic history are being destroyed or left to disrepair, the remains of the Jewish fort in Khybar are left standing and a pre-Islamic, cursed archaeological site is pristinely preserved as a Unesco World Heritage site! May Allah help us. (2012 update: the new Madinah KEC masterplan has no more mention of the proposed theme park.)
Post Maghrib, we met Sidi Yasin at the courtyard of the Masjid. Sidi Yasin is a beautiful Afghani who has been residing in Madinah since the days of Sheikh Zakariyya Bukhari, may Allah illuminate his resting abode. We were very happy to hear that he has finally found a job. Amongst the things Sidi Yasin does is organise Iftar for a local Arab at a designated area in the courtyard of Masjid al-Nabawi on Mondays, Thursdays and in Ramadan. He invited us to Iftar on Monday.
We had dinner with a couple of new found friends. During the meal, we had a pleasant surprise when Sheikh Hamza Yusuf walked over to our table to chat with us. What can one say about this man? He has had a profound impact on the lives of young Muslims in the West in an unprecedented way. One would be hard-pressed to find someone under the age of 35 who has not heard of him or benefited from him in some way. May Allah increase him and enable us to benefit from him for a long time to come.
On hearing that we were from Birmingham, he asked us for our feedback on the ‘Aqida al-Tahawiyyah course that took place in May 2007. We were quite frank in our thoughts. He said that there was no way a text like that can be covered in a day. And if he did, people would start claiming be to experts in ‘Aqida. I quipped in saying, “Yes, Sidi. People would have started coming up to you for Ijazas!” He gave a hearty laugh and squeezed my shoulder approvingly.
Post ‘Isha, we met Sidi Abdul Rahim, the principal Khadim of the late Sheikh Muhammad Zakariyya al-Bukhari (may Allah sanctify his secret), at the Rawdah. Of Afghan origin, he lives in Madinah with his family. I still remember that wonderful meal we had in his house with a group of Afghanis when we were here last. He suffers from poor health and has been unemployed for some time now. May Allah protect him.
I think it is worth mentioning a little about Sheikh Muhammad Zakariyya al-Bukhari at this juncture as I have mentioned his name a few times. The main thing to know about him is that he was widely considered the Qutb of Madinah when he was alive. Everything else is secondary.
I did not have the opportunity to meet him. But my blessed father was honoured to meet him and attend his Majalis. Rafa was always by his side whenever he came to Madinah – either sitting by his wheelchair at the Rawdah or in his company in his house. He exhorted all who visited him to recite abundantly the salat al-nariyya.
When he was alive, a large group of people benefited from him. As Rafa testifies, he was showered with wads of money. He would receive with one hand and distribute it with the other to those who were around him.
Unfortunately, with his passing, this group of people and their families who benefitted from the Sheikh have been left high and dry. With no support from the government and no recourse to work, a lot of them are quietly suffering. May Allah help them and cause us to be a means to aid them.
We spent the rest of the evening at the hotel lobby with Sidi Javed and Sidi Imran and concluded the night with a short Majlis of Hizb al-Bahr (Ara. text / Eng. trans.) and Qasida al-Shaghouri (Ara. text / audio).
Quote of the day:
“Majnun kissed a dog. On being queried why, he replied, ‘I once saw this dog in the vicinity of Layla.’”
– Rafa recalling Sheikh Hamza explaining love and loving with passion and intensity.
To be continued…
Born and bred in Singapore, Idris Kamal is an apprentice goat herder. After completing his National Service, he left for the UK where he graduated from the University of Birmingham and worked at Islamic Relief Worldwide. When he is not tending to his goats, he spends time reading, writing and working on a myriad of stuff. He can be reached at www.facebook.com/idris.kamal