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Jerusalem: Don’t Be A Stranger

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The other night I was sat on my sofa not doing very much. Being the easily bored woman-child that I am, I ended up messing around with the Google Maps feature of my latest toy, which allowed me to view aerial shots of almost anywhere in the world, 007-stylee. All of a sudden, I felt the urge to perform a virtual Umrah, and a few seconds after typing in “Mecca”, I was magically transported to… California.

Say what?

You can check it out for yourself. You lucky American Muslims have your very own Mecca! It has nothing on the Saudi version, obviously, but perhaps it is worth a visit if you’re in the area. Imagine living there? That would be one awesome postal address for a Muslim!

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Anyway, after being a little more specific with Mr G. Maps, (“Take me to Mecca, Saudi Arabia – please”), I was soon gazing down upon the dusty streets of Makkah Al-Mukkaramah – and with a few sweeps of my right index finger, I quickly happened upon the unmistakable shiny, white marble floors of the Sacred Mosque.

I’ve seen plenty of photos of the Haram – I even have a large poster of that truely iconic scene of the masjid being packed to the rafters with worshippers – but none of them ever gave me the chills that I felt when I zoomed into the image on my little hand-held screen, in order to have a better angel-eye’s view of the roof of the Kaaba. Amazing, subhanallah!

Of course, no Umrah is complete without a visit to Medina Al-Munawarrah, in order to pass on one’s salaams to the Beloved Prophet, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam (and I mean “complete” in the sense of personal satisfaction: it would be sad to travel so far and not experience that immense blessing). Thus a virtual Umrah should be no different. After plugging in the new destination, again, it did not take me long to locate the second sacred mosque – its bright whiteness and distinctive courtyard are a familiar sight, even from my sofa in the sky. Zooming into the green dome above the resting place of our Nabi, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, sent further chills down my spine – to be directly above this spot, even in the virtual sense, was mind blowing.

So where to next on my virtual pilgrimage? The obvious answer, of course, was the location of the first Qiblah, and home to the third holy site of Islam: Jerusalem. However, having never visited this location in person, I wasn’t so familiar with the terrain. It looked similar enough to Makkah and Medina in that the city was a large patch of brown and grey, intersected by rows of streets and buildings – but where was Al-Aqsa, the masjid where Rasoolallah, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, lead the previous Prophets in prayer? Where was the famous golden dome of the Dome of the Rock from where he, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, was escorted to the Heavens by Gibreel, ‘alayhis salam?

I really had no idea what I was looking at, and as much as I scrolled up, down, left and right, I couldn’t see any distinctive shapes that lead me to my desired location. It was frustrating to say the least, but more than that, it was quite saddening. Saddening because this incident so clearly highlighted how alien this holy ground is to me. I have never walked upon it as I have done with the previous two sanctuaries – and to be perfectly honest, I am scared to even try.

I mean, none of us wants our special, potentially once-in-a-lifetime, pilgrimage experience to be tainted with the fear of facing armed soldiers at checkpoints, right? But then again – imagine – that is exactly what the people of Palestine have to face every day for the simplest of errands, such as going to work, to school, even to hospital. Bravery, necessity, whatever the motivation, it’s a reality that they have no choice but to face – may Allah continue to strengthen them.

Restricted access to the furthest Mosque is one of the lesser casualties of the Middle Eastern conflict – though it is one that affects the entire Muslim world. Even so, the third Haram still remains a beacon of hope; we pray that one day we will all be free to enter its gates in peace, just as we pray that one day, the people of Palestine, the children of Ibrahim, ‘alayhis salam, can go about their lives in peace. May Allah, the Most Merciful, grant us that day soon – Ameen.


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Entry written for Blog About Palestine Day. Image Credit: Simeon.

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Dr Mehzabeen b. Ibrahim joined MuslimMatters as a blogger in late 2007 under the handle 'iMuslim', whilst still a struggling grad student. Since then, she has attained a PhD in Molecular Biology and a subsequent Masters in Bioinformatics, and now works as a specialist in this field for a well-known British, medical charity, masha'Allah. Somewhere in between she found the time to get married, alhamdulillah. She likes to dabble in photo and videography, a sample of which can be found on her personal blog: iMuslim.tv.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Islam Blog

    May 16, 2008 at 4:45 AM

    Jazakallah for the reminder. I am very saddened by the thought of not being able to go to Jerusalem and masjid al Aqsa. But I hope my assumptions are wrong and it really isn’t that difficult to go there.

    Is there anyone who has visited the mosque who can narrate their experience?

  2. Abu Ninja

    May 16, 2008 at 6:14 AM

    When was the last time any of us remembered to make dua to Allah to free al-Aqsa from the control of the Zionist yahood?

    I pray the Muslims of this ummah wake up before its too late.

    The Zionist yahood have been planning for a long time to destroy al-Aqsa. I pray with my whole heart that this never happens. but I have a feeling that one day they may be successful in demolishing al-Aqsa and the Muslim ummah will continue to sleep.

    How many adult Muslims do we see who do not even know how to perform wudu?

    I know a brother who until he was 23 years old did not even know how to perform ghusl until I taught him.

    I know of a another person who literally lives two doors away from a masjid and has not once entered the masjid to perform a single salaat, jummuah or even a Eid prayer in 7 years and more!

    How many Muslims do we see drowning in shirk & bid’ah while they think they are following Islam?

    What will it take for the Muslims to wake up? An attack on Ka’bah?

    May Allah strengthen the Muslims and guide us upon the Sirat al-Mustaqeem.

  3. Veiled_Muslimah

    May 16, 2008 at 9:53 AM

    Mashallah, good post. Very will written. :)

  4. Veiled_Muslimah

    May 16, 2008 at 9:54 AM

    well* [And ameen to the duas].

  5. Siraaj

    May 16, 2008 at 10:38 AM

    Really cool post – does the street view feature work on those areas? That would be really cool.

    Siraaj

  6. Abu Hafsa

    May 16, 2008 at 11:18 AM

    If you thought Mecca in california was cool. Here in Chicago, we have a suburb by the name of Medinah.

  7. Pingback: Jerusalem: Don’t Be A Stranger « iMuslim

  8. iMuslim

    May 16, 2008 at 1:10 PM

    Islam Blog: My tajweed teacher once told the class about a plan to visit Syria, for the purposes of learning Arabic and meeting some shayookh. They would also try to enter Jerusalem from there to visit Masjid Al-Aqsa… she said that young Muslim men would not be allowed to enter alone, and they should try to bring as much family with them as possible. In my case, I am pretty sure my father would never let me even attempt the journey! And seeing as he is the only mahram I have to hand at the moment, it doesn’t look good. :(

    Abu Ninja: Ameen to your dua.

    Veiled Muslimah: Jazakallah sis.

    Br. Siraaj: My iPod wouldn’t zoom in that close, but perhaps the fully featured Google Maps would allow that, insha’Allah.

    Abu Hafsa: I discovered via Facebook that there are three towns in the US that have the same name as my home town here in the UK… not as cool as Mecca/Medinah, obviously, but interesting from my standpoint!

    Btw, jazakallah to br. Omar for installing the Google Map view of the Dome of the Rock in my entry! I found it to be a somewhat poetic end to my post, masha’Allah. Almost romantic in a “two loved ones reunited” kind of way. :)

  9. Umm Ibraheem

    May 16, 2008 at 2:32 PM

    but where was Al-Aqsa, the masjid where Rasoolallah, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, lead the previous Prophets in prayer? Where was the famous golden dome of the Dome of the Rock from where he, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, was escorted to the Heavens by Gibreel, ‘alayhis salam?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, sister…but isn’t the famous golden dome not actually Masjid Al-Aqsa (or where the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was escorted from)? I thought that was just a common misconception….

  10. Broken Mystic

    May 16, 2008 at 6:05 PM

    Salaam alaykoum!

    This was a beautiful entry, masha’Allah. It’s really heart-breaking whenever I think about how much conflict haunts the Holy Land. How can people allow so much blood to spill and then blame it on another group of people? Our Palestinian brother and sisters do not have the same luxuries that we may have in the west, we are not constantly worried about the security forces patrolling and occupying our homes. Just even going to the Masjid for a really spiritual experience is difficult because you must be constantly reminded of how war-torn the region is.

    We need to an end to the occupation, end to discrimination, end to racism/prejudice, and an end to dehumanization. No human being can live like that — the saddest part is that we are all brothers and sisters, and yet, no one seems to be interested in that. I pray to go there some day insha’Allah too. I have faith in our generation of Muslims.

  11. AbuAbdAllah the Houstonian

    May 17, 2008 at 6:58 PM

    Bismillah. As salamu alaykum.

    For the author, you wrote about the fear of performing a journey to Masjid Al Aqsa. Yes, armed Israeli soldiers occupy the Holy City and deny Philistini pilgrims access regularly and at whim. But, mashaAllah, the Philistini never give up their hopes to pray in that blessed masjid. Some foreign nationals cannot visit because of visa issues, but for Americans the excuse is almost always only fear.

    MashaAllah, the intended-Hajj of the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam and the sahabah — the journey that ended in the Treaty of Hudaibiyah — that was a journey to a city literally in the hands of the armed enemies of Islam and the Muslims. Fear of the mushrikeen did not stop those who feared Allah.

    If more Muslims made visits to the Holy sites only to please Allah, then perhaps they find more courage and more reward.

    Regarding Mecca, CA, and Makkah, SA, Google Maps prefers the official/local spellings of street names, cities, etc. So to find Beijing, one should probably not use Peking, and to find Makkah, one should search for Makkah. And if it would suffice for anyone, we have a Palestine in Texas, too.

    In reply to the first comment, I had tawfiq to visit all three holy sites last summer, http://myamazingumrah.blogspot.com. There are videos of the grounds of Al Aqsa for those who cannot walk there in person. My visit filled my heart with love for the Philistini. I urge everyone who can go to do so.

    I would not call a Google visit to Makkah a virtual Umrah, because there’s no virtual Tawaf, Sai’, etc. But you can visit all three holy sites in satelite view (courtesy of Google) at prayinjamat.com — you’ll start at Makkah, and then zoom out to see markers for other masajid. Try a street address from your home town — you’ll find over 1000 jamat in America, Canada, and Europe. Add any-sized jamat!

  12. iMuslim

    May 19, 2008 at 4:21 PM

    Umm Ibrahim: As far as I am aware, the Dome of the Rock (with the golden dome) is the place from where Rasoolallah, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, was escorted to the Heavens, and Masjid al-Aqsa (with the black/grey dome) was built by Umar, radiallahu anhum, during his caliphate, above the musalla where Rasoolallah, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, was thought to have lead the other Prophets in jamaat… please someone correct me if I am wrong.

    Broken Mystic: Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah. Ameen to your dua.

    AbuAbdAllah the Houstonian: Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah. Jazakallah for all the info, especially the websites. Your example of the intended Hajj also came to mind while I thought about the entry. It does inspire me, and many people, to make the journey, insha’Allah. Please make dua that I am given a mahram who thinks the same way. :)

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