My I’tikaaf Journey to the Forgotten Haram- 2012 / 1433 (Part 2)

We continue with Brother Zeyn Shahzada’s experience of i’tikaaf in al-Aqsa 2012 / 1433 AH.
My I’tikaaf Journey to the Forgotten Haram- 2012 : 1433

We were told to enter into the haram with just a small bag enough for ten nights of i’tikaaf so as not to attract the attention of the Zionist police stationed at the various gates. In the event of a problem, an arrangement was made with Brother Abu Isa who owned a toyshop near one of the gates to get our bags into the haram. Alhamdulillah we performed two raka’ats before we left for the haram seeking the help of Allah to make it easy for us. We entered through one of the gates, then headed straight for the main masjid on foot with a 9.5kg backpack for over 2km from the hotel, no easy task I assure you.

We arranged our things and prepared ourselves for ‘Asr salaah. It was an amazing and surreal experience now actually being in the place which my heart had longed and ached for so long. It is difficult to put pen to paper to describe the feeling. Since I have returned I feel Aqsa is a part of me, I have so much become infatuated with the haram. The wide open spaces, olive tree lined pathways, tall pine trees and the beautiful blue mosaic tiles on the Dome of the Rock masjid capped with an impressive massive gold leaf dome and the oldness of the place including the walled off old city.

Dome of the Rock

Half the days were spent taking rest while the nights were reserved for ‘ibaadah, reciting Qur-aan or taking long walks around the haram while making the dhikr of Allah. The i’tikaaf here was quite a unique experience since the entire haram is a masjid, you are not confined to the four walls of the al-Aqsa Mosque. My favourite spot was sitting on the steps which lead down from the Qubbat-us-Sakhraa’ better known as the Dome of the Rock towards the Masjid of Aqsa and reciting Qur-aan. Whenever my gaze would fall on the Dome of the Rock, I used to find it hard to believe that Allah had actually accepted me to come to Aqsa and I used to contemplate and imagine our beloved Nabi Muhammad (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) on the night of Mi’raaj, tying the magnificent buraaq (heavenly winged creature) on the western side. There is a mosque there called Buraaq Masjid. This small structure, on the south-west corner of the al-Aqsa compound is believed to be the place where Rasoolullah (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) tied the buraaq. Inside there’s a ring on the wall to symbolise the tying of the buraaq on that wall.
Buraaq Masjid
This western wall is called the Buraaq wall and is known as the Wailing Wall to the Zionists who believe that exists from the temple of Solomon. [see previous post on My I’tikaaf Journey to the Forgotten Haram- 2012 / 1433 (Part 1) for image]. The path to the main musjid has been sealed off by the Zionists.

During al-Israa, the night journey, Nabi (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) proceeded to Masjid-al Aqsa and performed two raka’ats salaah with approximately 124 000 Ambiyaa (‘Alaihimus-Salaam) following behind him. A unique and distinctive feature of Al-Aqsa haram shareef. Thereafter proceeding to what is known as the Dome of the Rock for His ascension. Its so sad to see the place where from the gift of salaah was received, is not filled to capacity for salaah as it should be. One reason is the Zionist occupation restrictions on entry to the haram, apart from 27th night of Ramadaan, Jumu‘ah and ‘Eid salaahs. The Fajr of ‘Eid day the masjid was just a third full in Ramadaan. Out of Ramadaan only about three saffs (rows) fill for prayer, we are told. People over age 50 are only allowed to enter.

Masjid Umar
During Ramadaan the restrictions are eased but then also a pass is given for one hour to three days. It is easier for them to go to Makkah or Madeenah then to come to Masjidul Aqsa they say. Many Palestinians have been to the other two sacred harams but have never been to al-Aqsa. The main reason for the Zionist occupation other than their oppression, is the weakness of our Imaan. We disobey the orders of Allah and forsake the sunnah of our Nabi (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) on a daily basis all over the world. Al-Aqsa was twice liberated before – initially by Sayyidunaa ‘Umar (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) and then by the great Salahuddin Ayoobi (rahimahullaah).

Palestinians like most Muslims around the world have become westernised. This is all too evident here in Palestine as well. Very few men lengthen the beard or dress according to sunnah, most men are clean shaven. I have seen men dress identical to cowboys and basketball stars. I saw a little girl on ‘Eid day enter the masjid wearing a long pink burkah with Bratz Dolls images all over. Many youngsters enter the masjid with WWF (wrestlers) faces on their t-shirts, boys play around in the masjid with their i-phones and Samsung galaxy phones playing games or making a noise, men sleep or lie down in the masjid with legs stretched out facing the Qiblah. Unfortunately, the only ones who are visible in the proper sunnah garb are those associated with the Jamaa’at-ut Tableegh (known as Jamaa’at-ud-Da’wah here) and others known as the Salafis with long full beards. Of course I am not in favour of labelling people as we are all Muslims at the end of the day.
The jamaat brothers are noticeable by their white turbans. Alhamdulillah, there are no restrictions on jamaat activities in Palestine, jamaats are free to come and go as they please. There was a Cape Town jamaat there spending four months. Daily programmes are conducted after Fajr salaah in the Aqsa masjid, and jawlah (gusht) within the haram after the taraweeh salaah. No ijtimas take place due to the circumstances of the zionist occupation. The atmosphere of Ramadhaan is absent outside of the haram as big screens on pavements play out music videos and cars whizzing past thumping the latest club hits. Even during salaah time many are found loitering around. May Allah have mercy upon us and grant us hidaayah (guidance).

At al-AqsaThe Palestinians have love for reciting Qur-aan but unfortunately despite this love they possess for reciting Qur-aan, I have witnessed disrespect shown towards the Qur-aan by them as it is regarded like any ordinary book in the way it was handled. These were just some perturbing things that I had observed during my short stay. It brings tears to my eyes as these and similar incidents are perpertrated in the Harams of Makkah and Madeenah as well. A few times I was asked by (clean shaven) Palestinian youth whether or not I was Muslim, whether or not I was keeping the fasts of Ramadaan and whether I could recite Qur-aan in spite of having shown them my copy of the mus-haf (Arabic copy of Qur-aan) and myself being Alhamdulillah in full sunnah with my black amaamah (turban) always on my head. Once I was asked by a lady whether I am a Shi‘a or Bahai. They were amazed when I said that I am a Sunni Muslism (follower of Ahl-us-Sunnah Aqeedah) and can read Arabic fluently. One question they always seemed to ask and be amazed was if we understood Arabic and if not, how do we understand the message of the Qur-aan?
The women I noticed, were quite strict about hijaab when worn on their heads. They make sure it covers properly and no skin is left exposed apart from their face which is exposed. I witnessed few women wearing the niqaab (face veil).
 
On the point of boycotts and sanctions – there was a big hubbub about Karsten dates and it being sold to Hadiklaim which is a Jewish owned date company. I have seen with my own eyes Palestinians selling these very same Hadiklaim dates. They even admitted to me that the best quality dates are from Jewish owned date farms. Many Palestinians were seen consuming the very same products which we are called to boycott, such as Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Pepsi, etc. and in fact used to make their iftaar with these products. For those who wish to boycott companies who support Zionism, there are alternatives but we should actually be boycotting the western un-islamic way of life not just their products, yet we boycott subconsciously the sunnah. We question where does it say that I should dress like this and cover my face or grow my beard a fist long. May Allah guide us and give us understanding.
 
Alhamdulillah this land is indeed blessed. We tasted such sweet and delicious fruits from Palestinian owned farms such as figs, olives, plums, peaches, watermelons, grapes and bananas. Most of the meat products are halaal as I have seen local livestock such as sheep, goats and cows.
 
Very rarely have I seen the Palestinians wearing the famous Palestinian scarf though it is sold in many shops. They probably wear it when they confront the Zionists in protests. There were protests on the last day of Jumu‘ah in support of a Free Syria within the haram with the Free Syria flag being hung from the masjid. Songs used to be sung by the hamas shabaab.
 
Decorations for Ramadaan in the old city of Jerusalem Palestinians usually decorate the old city for Ramadaan. It was so sad leaving Al-Aqsa. We spent the night of ‘Eid in the Golden Walls hotel and did some last minute shopping as the shops only close at 2 am. We got back, prepared ourselves for the day of ‘Eid and went for Fajr salaah to the haram, where we remained till after the ‘Eid salaah. We had a breakfast at the hotel and then proceeded for King Hussein bridge border. We were once again unnecessarily delayed by the Zionist border police who questioned every alternate brother in our group. “Wheres your bags? Go fetch your bags! What is your name,? What is your father’s name, grandfather’s name etc.” As a result we had to rush to Amaan international airport and one brother missed his connecting flight to Madeenah and there was just confusion at the airport. In the end everything went smoothly Alhamdulillah! It was an amazing trip, one I will cherish for a very long time and will remain in my heart In-shaa-Allah.
 
I have made niyyah (intention) In-shaa-Allah that I will go back with my family and encourage the Muslims of South Africa to go to al-Aqsa on a regular basis. May Allah accept our i’tikaaf all over the world and liberate the Palestinian people from the apartheid Israeli regime.

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