By Sheena Hussain
Being an avid traveller, I honestly had no idea what to expect when I embarked on my first ever journey to the Holy Land, more accurately described as Al-Quddus, the beautiful and glorified plains of Palestine. The excitement of my journey was fuelled with the stories and narrations of what took place there as one of the most spiritual journeys in history. As I reminisce my heart warms in devotion.
Anas Ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “I was brought the Buraq, a tall white beast, larger than a donkey but smaller than a mule. It could place its hooves at the farthest boundary of its gaze. I mounted it until I arrived at bayt al-Maqdis. I tied it to the ring to which the prophets tied it before (i.e. the Buraq Wall or Western Wall). I entered Masjid al-Aqsa Sanctuary and prayed Salah (two rak’ah there).” (Muslim)
I took this preserved narrative and wrapped it around my head, trying with all my imagination to visualise the scene: the ascension of the Beloved: how much light must there have been? What must it have been like to see the lowest heavenly canopy open up before you and inviting you in? I grappled with the questions spinning in my mind.
As I trod with trepidation and entered the sacred precinct; my eyes caught a glimpse of the golden dome, shyly shimmering between the branches of ancient trees. Peace – overwhelming peace – spilled into my heart; nothing was more important to me at that moment in time but the sight before me – this was no mirage! I found a spot directly outside the entrance door, looking in admiration at a very pristine gold dome – The Dome of The Rock; it sat high on the octagonal structure encased with the heart of the Qur’an – surah Yasin. Wanting to get the best view, I took my place on the warm marble floor, not remotely concerned about the dirt being gathered on my new abayah: how could the land of Palestine be dirty? I thought to myself. Every inch was laden with the footsteps of pure souls that had walked and prostrated there—a privilege indeed: pure like the soft breeze that soothes worshippers lost in the magnificence and splendour of a land so blessed.
As my sight swivelled around the precinct I came to appreciate the nobility of the people of Palestine. Despite the aggression against their lands, they walked with dignity and poise, wearing humble smiles.
As the call to prayer bellowed in earnest, worshippers flocked to Masjid Al-Aqsa to perform the noon prayer. I casually walked among sisters, smiling and giving endless salaams; it was as if I had known them from a previous life. The bond of sisterhood was as tight as a knot; not even conflict within borders could break it asunder. I was washed away in sublime waves as I was channelled through narrow cobbled alley ways, being offered fresh homemade bread in readiness for iftaar, as festive apparel and excitement pervaded the grounds of the Golden Dome – a heavenly site beheld me, Alhamdulillah!
This time I decided to enter from Bab Al-Nasr – the Gate of Victory, where the hustle and bustle came from traders selling their wares, shouting from the backs of their vocal cords, that their products were the best. An old lady retreated to the noisy staircase in pensive silence, as she sat in the baking sun begging for her daily keep, with her eyes firmly closed. No doubt what was written for her in her mother’s womb would reach her. Yet many walked past her, clutching onto their rucksacks.
In complete adulation for the people of Palestine, my hands stretched into the air, reaching as high as they could go into the celestial skies. I made dua; “O’ Allah, the most Kind, the most Merciful, please keep a firm watch on them all, and those that will be martyred for the sake of protecting your precinct; may their souls enter eternal bliss – Ameen”.
I came to realise at that moment that they truly were soldiers of Allah scattered about in occupied lands. May the seeds grow and bring back a lost glory.
The messenger of Allah swt said: “Whoever among you wakes up in the morning secured in his dwelling, healthy in his body, having his food for the day, then it is as if the world has been gathered for him.” (Tirmidhi)
If anybody lived up to these words, I thought to myself, then it certainly was the people of Palestine. They sought solace in simple days as they unfolded – sometimes secured, other times restricted – but still striving for their daily bread and not their weekly fill. May I always be grateful to Allah, Al-Shakur, Al-Shakir for everything I have and everything I will have Insha’Allah; for perfect health and unrestricted freedom without let or hindrance, Alhamdulillah!
I had seen all the holy sites of Islamic interest with the rest of the group and it was nearing the end of the journey there in Palestine. My heart was a conflicting mess; I wanted to remain in that beautiful part of the world, but it toiled with the brutality of two conflicting worlds which I personally wasn’t brave enough to endure any longer. This honour was strictly reserved for the courageous people of Palestine— the people of Peace. With a resolute look in my eye, it was time for a final farewell as I absorbed the scenes for the last time: I prostrated and read two rak’ah, hoping at best that I would be given my due reward.
About the Author: Sheena is a budding self-published poet; her second collection of poetry “Divinity Lost and Found” is due out summer 2019. By profession she is a non-practising solicitor, a carer to her mama. She is championing cancer among BAME communities. You can learn more about her at www.poetrybysheenapoetrybyname.com and on Instagram Poetrybysheena