There are some experiences after which one should die because nothing more will surpass them. One such experience is the Qiyam of Laylatul Qadr at Eyup Sultan. Everyone enters the hallowed precincts of Eyup Sultan with their own individual worries and burdens and yet once you step off the ferry and cross the road to […]
Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you dear readers. It has been a long time since I last blogged, and it may be some time yet before I can resume as many other things have kept me busy. However, today the 29th of Ramadan of 1440, just before this blessed months departs (we Muslims consider the month a dear guest that arrives once a year, and we try our best to host her in the most loving way while she is with us, and wait until she visits again another year… many Muslims will end the month with the heartfelt prayer, ‘O Divine, give us life to meet Ramadan again’!), I cannot but help share the post above written by someone I was honored to meet. I will not name her except to say she is a well respected specialist physician who has dedicated her life to service in many many spheres, and it seems, is now enjoying some well earned time in Turkey during Ramadan.
Laylatul Qadr means ‘layl =night, ul =of, qadr= power/Divine decree’, it is the night that comes once during Ramadan, on one of the odd nights of the last ten days – i.e., 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th night. We do not know exactly when it is, but we watch for it and we look for its signs – a beautiful indescribable peace that settles in the heart from dusk till dawn, a stillness that covers the earth, and in the dawn a sun that rises without rays. It commemorates the night the Quran was first revealed. Many reports pour in every year about which night it may have been. This year, the night of the 27th rose high on the list of signs. 🙂
The nights of Ramadan are spent in beautiful and peaceful worship, usually we break fast in the mosque, complete the dusk prayer, then eat a meal..then rest a little until the call for the night prayer is made, which happens about an hour and half after dusk. Then we pray the night prayer and after this begins voluntary prayers that last through the rest of the night. We call these ‘taraweeh’ or ‘qiyam al layl’. They are spiritually powerful, especially in the last ten days of Ramadan…the month’s training of abstinence from food and drink I think impacts the body, which becomes more receptive to spiritual or other wordly nuances, and then the profoundly moving recitation of the Quran by master reciters adds to the ‘magic’ (if you will) of it all, where many people will feel their hearts open, their burdens fall away, their tears flow, their worries and anxieties eased as they are filled with new light and healing.
So now with the above context I hope you can enjoy the experience shared above from someone blessed to have spent laylathul qadr in a most special place, the mosque of abu Ayyub in Istanbul. For any who have been there during any time of the year, I need say no more. The feeling in the place is immense, indescribable. For those who have been in Turkey and been in any of the mosques, I hope you can imagine..but really it is so much more in abu Ayyub jaami. And for those who have not been there, I pray you get to go and regardless of what faith or creed, colour or disposition, may you be able to benefit from the gifts freely given there.
Peace be with you all, and Eid Mubarak in advance! May you have a blessed festival
I have been wanting to write for a while but many unexpected things got in the way. I have much more to share about my rihla to Turkey, but the days are flying and new experiences are threatening to dull precious memories, as well as competing for blogging time and space (and I have been sternly denying them that). So I think this maybe the last post on Turkey. I chose for it a post about a very special camii we were blessed to visit. It is called the Ulu camii, also known as the Bursa Grand Mosque. It is an example of early Seljuk architecture and was built before the time when Constantinopole became the capital of the Empire, around the late 14th century. So it is from before the time of the great Mimar Sinan or the more famous mosques in Istanbul.
Why is this masjid (=mosque) special? Well, when you see the pictures you will know. We took a day trip down just to see it and were blessed to join the congregation for the noon, afternoon and sunset salah (respectively called ‘dhuhar’, ‘asr’ and ‘maghreb’) there before heading back to Istanbul. It is located in Bursa, a ski-station actually, a beautiful old city located high up in the mountains, overlooked by the towering Ulu-daag (Ulu mountain). The mosque unlike the later masajid (plural of masjid) is decorated in only two colours; black and gold. There is minimal tile work and ornamentation. But what it does have is considered by some as one of the most magnificent displays of Islamic calligraphy in one place. It has over 190 calligraphic panels and works painted on the walls of the mosque. Different verses of the Quran, Islamic phrases, saying of the prophet (peace be upon him). All done in a variety of the established classical styles of calligraphy. For those of you who don’t know, Islamic calligraphy has some classical styles and training in them is also handed down from teacher to student and follows the same ‘ijaza’ (=license) system of transmission. We were blessed to watch a master calligrapher at work, who has ijazaath (plural of ijaza) in I think all the major forms, and some forms took up to 13 years to master. Islamic calligraphy is very mathematical as most Islamic art forms are …unsurprising as Muslim science always considered math to be a language of knowing the divine…there are secrets of the Universe mathematical principles can unlock that no other science can. And I guess in today’s language quantum physics and allied sciences are what I would also consider pure mathematics. But I am going off on another tangent, so I better stop. Look at this interesting paper for a computer application developed to do what the old masters did by hand, exploring symmetry and how it teaches us meanings about origin and end… Here is more detail on the theory.
I believe there is a panel where in the corner the master calligrapher offers a challenge to anyone to better his work, and indeed he does sign some of the panels. The feeling engendered by these panels in the mosque is amazing, everywhere you turn there is some choice phrase or metaphysical symbolic composition of letters, it takes the soul on a journey that I can swear no visit to any Art gallery has ever done to me, and I can use the Arabic ‘wallahi’ to swear this! (Wallahi meaning ‘by Allah’ and it is not used lightly to swear on something)
I will post pictures below. To leave you though, there is something very interesting in this masjid that I must share. Usually the place to take the compulsory washing one has to do before being able to enter the salah, called the ‘wudu’ in Arabic is outside. The wudu is often translated in English as ‘ablution’ and the idea is that one cleans ones external (the obligatory of this is to wash the hands and arms up to the elbows, the face, wipe over the hair and the feet. The prophet peace be upon him, would also wipe his ears and wash his mouth and nose so we often do that as additional and he would do this three times while reciting certain verses, so we follow his example, he also frequently brushed his teeth too) before one can enter the state of the ‘salah’ where Muslims believe we are standing directly in front of God which then is the time we go to clean our ‘internal’. Then before we go to the internal cleansing we undertake this external cleansing. So we can’t offer the salah unless we take our ‘wudu’ (certain acts nullify a wudu and then it has to be taken again, such as for example relieving oneself or falling asleep). However ‘ablution’ is a bad translation as it signifies the idea of prior sin, which is a concept foreign to the Muslim psyche. Rather the better translation I’ve heard recently is ‘lumination’ from an eminent English speaking Islamic scholar, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, as the Arabic root word for ‘wudu’ comes from the same root as the latin ‘lumos’ (meaning gaining a state of light) comes from.
To continue the taps to take the wudu are usually located in the courtyard outside the masjid as we enter the masjid after having taken our wudu. But in the Ulu camii there is a beautiful fountain (complete with fresh clean towels!) located inside the mosque. This was an anomaly and we were curious why. The story goes, that when the Sultan wanted to build the masjid he began to acquire the land for it. All was okay except there was an old lady who lived in this small hut right in the middle of the proposed property who refused to sell to the Sultan. And it is a testament to his good rule that he could not compel her to sell her land. The story goes that eventually she died, and left no heirs. Now the Sultan went ahead and acquired the land and construction was to begin. However here is a dilemma, would the prayer of those worshipers who prayed on this land be valid, in that though acquired it was not done so with the permission of the owner. So according to Islamic law (and remember Islam as a religious tradition is most known in terms of its contributions in the field of law) the land may not be ‘halal’ (permissible) or valid, on which to build a mosque. The ‘ulema (=scholarly community) had a cunning compromise to this dilemma, they could not halt the Sultan from building the mosque but they could not rule that the prayer offered on this portion of the land would be valid according to Islamic law, so they couldn’t sanction it either. Therefore they proposed that a fountain be built on the section of land that used to belong to the old woman so that no worshiper’s head would touch the ground on what maybe a space where a prayer is unlawful. Instead people take their wudu there! I was humbled by this level of scrupulousness and earnestness in trying to find the best solution to a problem not to mention ensuring religious works are done according to the highest morality. And I could not but help think of the status of many Muslim governments of today who don’t care how they do what and would even murder their own citizens in the name of religion. May God help us all.
With that said, here are pictures. May peace be with you all and I will leave with this prayer that you too will get to visit places like this in the same way I have. And truly journey ‘through the earth to learn’
Sahih International Interpretation
So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts.
Dear readers, it has been many days since I returned from my journey and many more since I left Turkey. I still miss it very much. I miss the pre-dawn walks we took to either the blue mosque, or the Beyazid mosque or the Sulaimaniya (which I missed unfortunately) to get there just as the sounds of the call to the dawn prayer began to float on the hushed stillness of the ending night. I miss entering those great spaces of peace and sitting in silence until the prayer is begun and then the magnificent recitation. I miss sitting there after, each of us lost in our own thoughts, contemplations, in our ‘dhikr’ (=remembrance, of God, of where we came from and where we are going, of our prophet) until the rays of the sun fell on the carpet through the stained glass windows brightly enough to signal the day has broken. And then we would stand to offer two more units of voluntary prayer before walking back to our hotel for breakfast. The city magically transformed in that short time so that quiet deserted streets were then full of vendors, the fragrances of tea and ‘simit’, busy students hustling to school and busier folks on their way to work, the trams going past ‘jam-packed’ and the shops open to new delights to tempt one as one passes by. I miss this also, this cacophony of life, good busy simple life. All things should have their place and their is a time for prayer and a time for the daily duties of life. I love that about Islam that these things are ordered, but never let one take too much of the mind-heart space to the detriment of the other. Ah, balance is a hard skill to achieve. But the middle way is the best way, and so taught our prophet, peace and blessing be upon him. And yet while we maintain that balance it is not to stay stagnant but gently rise each day and year of our lives through our perseverance and training of the soul, so that we wipe away the grime from our hearts and can feel again our true center…that is so far elevated from the mundane! Those who have experienced this will know what I mean. Subhahanallah (glory be to God)
I could go on and on about each of the masajid (plural of masjid=mosque) we visited, but no doubt you will find better and more ample descriptions of these online in other places. So I will post some pictures for you below. Please read the captions for more information.
Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you) dear readers,
Alhamdulillah (thanks and praise be to God), finally back to posting and continuing with the rihla to Turkey posts. We visited many sites in Istanbul and spent the majority of our time in that great city. What can I say? there is so much to share that I am do not know where to begin. Let me then, begin at the beginning!
We arrived in Istanbul on the day of the great Istanbul marathon, I believe over ten thousand runners were on a route that included the Bosphorus bridge, thereby crossing Asia-Europe, which I thought was rather cool. The bottom line was that traffic though was a mess, as this meant one of the two bridges across the Bosphorus was closed to vehicles. After a short time in our hotel we then headed to the Abu Ayyub al Ansari mosque, or the Ayyup camii as the Turks call it. We did this as good etiquette upon our rihla. The turks call Abu Ayyub al Ansari (radhiallahu ta’ala anhu = may God the most High, be pleased with him) the ‘first Sultan’. Here is a website from Turkey on him. He was a companion of the prophet (peace be upon him) and a man beloved to all Muslims. He was an ‘ansari’ meaning, one of the ‘ansar’ (ansar= helpers). The ansar is the name given to the people of Yathrib, a city north of Medina, that the beloved prophet (peace be upon him) migrated to to escape immense persecution from him own tribe in Mecca and also at the request of the people of that city who pledged allegiance to him and asked him to come and govern it. On his arrival there, the city came to be called ‘Medina’ meaning ‘city’. A shortened form of ‘medinatun-nabi’ (=city of the prophet). There is much to relate of this migration, called the ‘hijrah’ which begins the Muslim calander and of the prophet (peace be upon him)’s first actions when he got there, among which was to draft a constitution.
To continue, when our beloved messenger (peace be upon him) entered Medina, he stayed at the home of Abu Ayyub al Ansari for several months until his own modest dwelling was built along side a mosque simultaneously constructed. There is a beautiful story about how the site was chosen for the mosque of the prophet (peace be upon him) which exists to this day and is the second most important mosque in the Muslim world (after the Ka’aba in Mecca). It was actually the prophet’s (peace be upon him) camel that chose the site. But this post will be very long were I to relate it. Abu Ayyub al Ansari showed the prophet (peace be upon him) an immense amount of love and respect on having him as his guest. Many stories are told about his honoring of his guest and the prophet’s immense love for him and his family. He lived a long time after the prophet’s death. In his eighties he went on a campaign to what was then constantinopole and died there. Several centuries later when Muhammed al fatih located where he was buried he built a mosque, the first he built in that city. The mosque exists to this day and the locals loving visit there to celebrate marriages, circumcision ceremonies for boys and etc. It was as if they were seeking the blessings of this great man. There was a feeling of peace and serenity in that mosque hard to rival among the other many fabulous mosques in Istanbul. Also one felt the genuine love of the local people for the place, and surrounding it many restaurants, plazas and places for people to hang-out are there, and they are always full. So we began our tour with a traditional etiquette of paying our respects to this beloved soul who did so much for Islam, and who had the honour and blessing of being among the companions of our beloved messenger (peace be upon him). I have no pictures of that place, it was not a place to take pictures in, at least not for me. I will however post below a video I found on youtube, of some brothers who gathered in the mosque, following the ritual prayer or salah, to sing in praise and love of the prophet and his companion.
And then out of respect and etiquette, I will post about other aspects of the Istanbul leg of our rihla later on inshaAllah (God willing). May the peace and blessing of God always around you, be closer and closer and ever more apparent to your hearts!
I have been wanting to continue with my posts on our rihla to Turkey, but several things do with returning and settling into the work routine have kept me busy. By Allah’s grace may I continue in the coming days. In the meantime I found this recording of the profound recitation following the salah (please see in my post on Ankara for an explanation of why I prefer using the term ‘salah’ rather than prayer for our obligatory daily ritual worship) in the Sultan Ahmed mosque (or Blue mosque as it is more commonly called) in Istanbul. How I miss sitting there listening to the recitation. These are the last two ayaat (=signs, or translated loosely as verses) of Surah Baqarah I believe, the second chapter in the Quran. The recitation following the salah is optional, so you will see some people walking about/leaving. Usually in the masajid (plural of masjid=mosque), the congregational prayer is followed by a du’a (supplication or prayer) or by recitation of verses from the Quran and by sending peace and blessings upon our beloved, Muhammed, the seal of the prophets (may Allah exalt him and grant him peace and all his family, may He elevate them).
On that note, today is a special day, the 12th of the ‘spring month’ of Rabbi ul-Awwal, the birthdate of our beloved messenger. Our prophet taught us that we have only two festivals as Muslims, the one following the end of the fasting month and the one concluding the Hajj pilgrimage. But many Muslims have special gatherings to sing praises of the prophet and send peace upon him, to honour him and remember him on this special day. Something that should not be confined to just one day, and then the best honour of him is to follow his example, may peace and blessings be upon the last messenger, a mercy to the worlds. So the second video is to a beautiful poem praising him, many exist in the Muslim world and some are long some are short. This one is not too long so you can listen to the whole inshaAllah.
May peace be with you all,
Recitation from blue mosque, the acoustics of the masjid are amazing! Subhahanallah (=glory be to God, most exalted)
After another hectic, but Alhamdulillah blessed period of travel, I have found some time to continue posts on our rihla to Turkey. We made a day trip out to Ederne, a city almost at the border between Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece. It used to be the capital of the Ottoman empire before the ‘fatah’ (=opening) of Constantinopole or Istanbul. After Constantinopole became a part of the Ottoman empire, Ederne functioned as a sort of co-capital. The fact that Ederne is located to the north of Constantinopole is indicative of the political, strategic and military reasons the Ottomans felt they needed to take that city, as it would literally have been surrounded by Ottaman territory by that time. But the military-political reasons for empire building are beyond the scope of this blog and I can’t say more so let me continue to tell you about the main reason we went to Ederne.
We went there to visit a masjid (=mosque) called the Selimiya camii. Camii is pronounced ‘jamii’ and is the Turkish word for mosque. It is obviously linguistically linked to the word ‘jama’ah’ which in Arabic means ‘gathering/group/congregation’. Jama’ah is the word that ‘masjid’ (Arabic for mosque) is derived from, meaning it is the place of gathering. And jama’ah is also the word that the word for the Friday salah, which is ‘jumu’ah’ comes from and also the word in Arabic for Friday which is ‘yaum al-jumuah’ (the day of the gathering) or simply ‘jumuah’ for short. Enough of my fascination with Arabic linguistics! But it is such a profoundly beautiful and meaningful language and understanding it opens up layer upon layer of meaning, that one cannot but write of it. Subhahanallaah (=glory be to God)! for the creation of language, the vehicle of communication that exalted the human over all other animals capable of making sound.
Fitting to the above, we wanted to attend the Friday prayer at the Selimiya camii, and mashaAllah (=by the grace of God) got there in time to do so. The Selimiya (derived from the Arabic root word ‘salam’ which means peace) camii is the work that Mimar Sinan, the great Ottoman architect, called his masterpiece, though his more famous work is the Sulaimaniya camii in Istanbul. Mimar Sinan is considered to be in the league of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michaelangelo for greatness, yet it is sad that until I went on this tour I had never heard his name. Yet another casualty of my colonial education and the poorer I have been for not knowing! I wonder at the so many millions of us who have only been taught a single-minded version of world history, how much we have to learn. But I digress. Indeed when we drove up to the camii and then walked in…Subhahanallah! words fail me. So pictures below. I will include captions with the pictures, please do read them. One of the reasons this work is to be considered a masterpiece is that Mimar Sinan achieved the effect of a ‘floating dome’, by moving the supporting columns of the dome to the walls and adding four more columns. You really feel as you walk into the mosque that you are walking under this magnificent dome that though you know it is a huge structure, it feels as if it is as light as a feather and is only floating above you…reminding you of the heavens above. So much more to say, so I will try to do so below. But to end this the feeling of reverence in the whole structure is indescribable. How I miss being there.
To end, adjoining the camii is a small museum dedicated to this great man. I wanted to share two quotes from him (below). During his lifetime of close to a 100 years, he constructed over 400 buildings, 300 or more considered to be of great dimension. Among his many students is the architect who designed the famous Blue mosque and his teaching influenced the design of the Taj Mahal as well. Yet he was very humble, and the Turks lovingly tell stories of his humility this post will become too long were I to recount. But I can relate that I learned he made a prayer that God forgive him if the opulence of the structures he had built detract worshipers from the greatness of God. He chose to be buried among the common people outside the Sulaimaniya camii whereas many of his stature were buried with the Sultans. From Mimar Sinan –
“As long as the world remains, wise people who see my work and my efforts will look at me with mercy considering the seriousness of my effort and remember me with prayers of goodness I hope”
– O Allah grant him the highest of heaven and ease in the grave!
“I praise God that built Prophet Adam’s body without measurement which is a secluded palace of the soul and heart”
– May Allah eternally bless his soul! I am truly humbled to witness the efforts of such a true and pure human being, elevated by God for his truthfulness to himself, and the fruit of that for generations to enjoy.
Here is the first of a series of posts about the recently concluded ‘rihla’ I was blessed to be on (rihla=journey, it is a tradition in the Islamic scholarly way that students go on journeys with their teachers. There is a great deal of wisdom to be had from travel. When one travels with a teacher one has the opportunity to not only benefit from specific lessons imparted but also from observing the teachers’ manners and comportment and therefore to benefit from that good company. This is actually expected from Muslim scholars, that students are allowed to travel and live with them, and thereby learn from their way of behaving. Interesting to me, there is a Quranic account of this type of travel – in the 18th Sura, which our prophet (peace be upon him) recommended we read every Friday, where a story is told of the prophet Musa (Moses, peace be upon him), who went on such a journey with ‘Khidr’ (there is a difference as opinion as to who he was) who was his teacher. I cannot recount it here, but the journey is full of metaphorical teaching via a number of incidents...I hope you can look it up, here is a link from a site I don’t know a lot about, but on going over it quickly it seems accurate)
We started our rihla in Konya, the resting place of Rumi (raheemahullah alai = upon whom be Allah’s grace). Though he is popularly known as Rumi in the west, his real name is Muhammed, the son of Muhammed, the son of Ahmed = Muhammed bin Muhammed bin Ahmed. He was a recognized scholar in the classical Islamic tradition, I believe in the hanafi school. And though he is best known, especially in the western world, for the whirling dervishes and ecstatic forms of worshiping God, many of these traditions are quite possibly erroneously attributed to him. He did however write widely about cultivating love for the divine and being on a path of eradicating one’s ego, which is done by filling the heart and mind with God-consciousness. This view makes more sense to me as my understanding of Islam is that while it allows for all forms of devotion to God, it prefers that the devotee is firmly ‘grounded’ in the practical world while at the same time being always in-tune with the divine. This is why all Muslims love Muhammed (peace and blessing of God be upon him) so much, for he taught how to *live* the quran; being the best father, the best husband, the best tradesman, the best general, the best leader etc., i.e. showing how to best conduct ones worldly affairs while being the foremost in worship to God. He is exalted in our tradition as the best ‘slave’ of Allah. i.e., the one most devoted to serving God.
The resting place of Rumi (raheemahullah alai) had a certain peace and feeling in the air hard to describe. In this regard I can so relate to this post by my sister. It was filled with visitors of all sorts, many who stayed to pray by his grave. This is also highly recommended to do in our tradition, to visit the graves and to pray for those who have left this world. We left this place just as the adhan (call to prayer) sounded for dhuhr and made it to the mosque next door. It was a large mosque (masjid) built many centuries ago. Apparently very beautiful inside mashaAllah. I did not get to go inside as it was full, we so rushed to join the jama’ah (congregation) outside all around the masjid. It was my first experience of a jama’ah during this rihla, the first of many beautiful jama’ath (plural of jama’ah) to come. Alhamdulillah!
We saw much more during that one day we spent in Konya. I will mention one more place. We visited an ancient ‘madrasa’ (=school). The famous Karatay madrasa, built in 1252 CE (follow the link for more information on this architectural gem). Unfortunately the word ‘madrasa’ is also now sullied with sad images of poorly run and decrepit institutions where little kids mindlessly memorize the Quran in places like Pakistan…you may know what I mean… images of boys rocking to and fro as they memorize come to mind. But I digress. The madrasa as it was in the old Muslim world was more akin to a university combined with a boarding school. Students stayed as long as required to master certain texts, and usually an endowment (=waqf, BTW one of the longest running soup kitchens is fed by a +450 year old waqf in old Jerusalem, established by the Haseki Harrem Sultan, the wife of Sultan Sulaiman the magnificent) would fund their food and board. Much like students travel vast distances today to gain knowledge, students did the same then and many such madrassas attracted bright students from all across the world. Interestingly two of the oldest still-working universities in the world are both in the old Islamic world, both linked to strong women figures, the one established by a woman – Al-Karaouine in Morocco and the other named after one- Al-Azhar in Egypt.
There is so much to be said about this madrasa. Every corner, every square foot was carefully designed with esoteric meaning and exoteric practicality. I can unfortunately only try to cover one very interesting aspect – the hole in the center of the roof in the main hall. Directly under the hole is a depression in the floor like a small pool. Apparently during the winter this pool was filled with wood and acted as a fireplace sufficient to heat the whole building – the hole then becoming a chimney. And in the summer the pool was filled with water and students would sit around it at night to observe the reflection of the stars from the hole in the roof, and this way study astronomy! This little snippet touched my heart and brought the whole room to life.
This has been a lot of text, pictures below :). May this find you in a high state of good health and happiness. Peace be with you all.
To end, one more picture, of a beautifully decorated entrance with ayah (= sign, each verse in the Quran is called an ayah, literally Muslims consider it to be a sign) of the Quran. Peace be with you all.
My dear readers, Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)!
Alhamdulilillah (praise and thanks be to God) I am currently in Turkey. I came here very blessed as part of a spiritual tour with a great scholar of our times. Please follow the link to find out more. InshaAllah more about this tour soon, it has been so full and overflowing in blessings it is hard to condense into one post so I must think about how best to share the ‘barakah’ with you inshaAllah (barakah=blessing, inshaAllah= God willing).
For today here are some pictures from a day trip I took to Ankara yesterday. I had to go there for some official business and did not have much time to spend. But I discovered it is a university town and has bookshops everywhere. So I was happy! There were several incidents of which one I particularly wanted to share; on my way into the city, being on a small budget I took a local bus and only had the address of the place I needed to get to to guide my way. I had asked several people but English is not commonly spoken and so I had some trouble. Basically I was in this bus that would take me to the city and I was not sure what I’d do when I got there. But I moved around asking a few people on the bus with little success despite very helpful sympathetic faces/gestures/words in Turkish. I then made the du’a of the traveler, a very beautiful and deep prayer (du’a = prayer, as opposed to the wrongly translated Muslim ‘salah’, the 5 times a day ‘prayer’, which really is more a ritual form of worship rather than a prayer as is commonly understood in English. A better translation of ‘salah’= ‘reorientation or ‘turning to good’ or ‘recalibration’. One can, and is encouraged to make ‘du’a’ during the ‘salah’ as well. Almost all people do, as when one is in the ‘salah’ one is closest to God so Muslims believe, specifically during the prostration position in the ‘salah’). The du’a is that which our beloved, Muhammed (upon whom be peace) made and taught us, when he embarked on any journey. Here it is;
‘Allaah is the greatest, Allaah is the greatest, Allaah is the greatest, How perfect He is, The One Who has placed this (transport) at our service, and we ourselves would not have been capable of that, and to our Lord is our final destiny. O Allaah, we ask You for birr (= goodness, good deeds, good) and taqwaa (= God consciousness, being mindful of God) in this journey of ours, and we ask You for deeds which please You. O Allaah, facilitate our journey and let us cover its distance quickly. O Allaah, You are The Companion on the journey and The Successor over the family, O Allaah, I take refuge with You from the difficulties of travel, from having a change of hearts and being in a bad predicament, and I take refuge in You from an ill fated outcome with wealth and family.’
I did not know it well, so recited of it what I could. And then sat and thought I’d enjoy the view. Mashaallah (by God’s grace) soon after, the gentleman seated in front of me turned around and spoke to me in understandable English. He inquired what my predicament was, took the written address from me, called a friend to find out about it and then said to wait till his contact got back with directions. Some minutes later his friend called back and he told me he would show me the way. The man had mashaallah a kind face filled with the light of the good-hearted (those of you who know this can recognize it I know) so I was very much at ease. We got off at the same stop, he escorted me to where I needed to board another bus, got me on that, told the driver where to drop me off and only departed after waving goodbye when my bus left. Allah bless this brother and give him all that is good in this world and the hereafter! On getting to know each other I found out that he works for the ministry of Education and is a poet…MashaAllah! So my brother, if you come across this post, please know that I am grateful for your help and pray for you and your family.
Alhamdulillah the rest of my journey was good. Except for the fact that I was nearly at one point tearing due to having to sit in a room filled with cigerrette smoke for a good amount of time, not to mention a constant itchy throat due to the smoking everywhere. And on this matter let me say I find it very sad how prevalent smoking is in the Muslim world. Some scholars consider smoking to be haram (= forbidden) while almost all scholars consider it at least makhruh (= discouraged, disliked) so I do not understand how it is so prevalent. For those who do not know, everything in a Muslim’s life falls under a categorization of permissibility, that goes from a spectrum of permissible = ‘halal’ to impermissible=’haram’. This is why often Islam is understood as a way of life rather than a religion. It is sad though, that not all Muslims seem to understand or practice it as such.
I heard the azan (= call the prayer) and so could locate a mosque within walking distance, it turned out to be the largest mosque in Ankara. So I could join the jama’ah (congregation) for the salah and also rest a while. There was a ‘janaza’ (=funeral) salah when I was there. The second I got to participate in during this journey. Muslims have certain obligations in their lives they must fulfill, some are considered personal (= fard ‘ain) such as the ‘salah’, where each person has to fulfill his/her own of it, and some are communal (=fard kifaya), i.e., where one person fulfilling it ensures the community has fulfilled its obligation. The janaza salah is a communal obligation upon a Muslim who had died. Needless to say, as many of us as can, join this ‘salah’, as it is a communal obligation, and so we may increase the prayers upon the departed soul. This is why the janaza salah is often held right after one of the 5 times a day salaath (plural of salah) in the mosque, so the whole congregation may join it.
The mosque itself was very beautiful and grand, all the mosques (in arabic, ‘masajid’) are amazing in this country. InshaAllah I wil follow with posts about the mosques later on. The caligraphy and feeling of space and reverence is very beautiful and restful. Some pictures are below.
To end, a sight that touched my heart and gave me a sense of strong hope. There are sadly many children who beg on the streets here. And there are children who work for a living on the streets. This is a topic that deserves a post on its own, so I won’t say more now. But the picture below is of a boy I saw, may Allah increase him, bless him, protect him and grant him a glorious future in this world and the hereafter, who was busy doing his homework while in front of him he was selling little packets of tissue. I did not specifically get permission to post the picture, but as it is blurry I do not think it it wrong of me to do so. He was very diligent, hardly looking up but all his customers were faithful to give him the right amount of money for his wares or so for as long as I witnessed this it was what I saw. I felt very proud, humbled and a great rush of love and delight looking upon this determined young man and so I ask you my dear readers to also send your prayers upon him. May Allah grant this country and its people a great and peaceful future.