A visit to Al-Quds & Jordan (2012)
By Moulana Hanif Dudhwala
The following is an account of a unique trip to Palestine and Jordan undertaken by nine British scholars in 2012. It is being published here to encourage Muslims to visit the blessed region and for some tips and advice. A summary of the trip is available towards the bottom of the page. Following the trip, a presentation was delivered at Jame Masjid Blackburn, the PowerPoint is viewable on the following link: A visit to al-Quds
The visit to Masjid Aqsa in Jerusalem, Palestine rates right at the top of my travels, level with the visits to Makkah & Madinah.
One of our colleagues, Moulana Rafiq Sufi had been blessed with a visit to Al-Quds in July 2011. His account of the Holy Lands upon his return got us all going at the MWI and we all made a firm intention of travelling at the earliest opportunity. We booked our tickets some three months earlier and got a complete bargain at £240 on Emirates Airlines to Amman in Jordan with a 12 hour stopover in Dubai outbound and inbound.
From Blackburn to Allenby Bridge, Jordan
We (8 of us of the MWI) left at 6:00am on Monday 30th April with Haji Bashir of Troy St. and his 15-seater and met up with Moulana Mohammad Ali Nagdi at Manchester Airport. Our flight to Dubai departed at 9:40am and we touched down in Dubai at 8pm local time. We spent the night touring Dubai. The real journey was just about to begin. Dubai was 3 hours ahead of the UK and we departed at 7:25am the next morning and landed at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman at 10am, Jordan is one hour behind Dubai and 2 hours ahead of the UK.
We had already made a little kitty for our travels and each one had put in £100 to begin with, this saw us through to Manchester Airport and also the Jordan entry visa fees. The officials were very welcoming and there was an atmosphere of joy and happiness at Amman Airport. The Jordanian Dinar (known as JD) is similar to the pound, we got 1.02JD for £1, it was easy to change currencies at the airport.
As we came out, our host for Jordan Mohammad Shuraim was waiting with my name, you could not miss him, a very jolly middle-aged gent who, as we were to find out, turned out to be a real gent. He was with Khalid, one of his drivers. They had brought two vehicles, an 8-seater and a 5-seater, we settled in and soon we were driving through the dessert of Jordan heading for the King Hussain Bridge Crossing, famously known as the Allenby Bridge. We had some drinks and snacks on route and within 45 minutes to an hour we arrived at the border crossing point. Jordanian taxis are not allowed beyond this point so we got out, collected our luggage, said our farewells for the time being to Mohammad Shuraim and Khalid and made our way into the departures terminal on the Jordanian side.
The trip from the airport to the border had been a very lively one, Mohammad Shuraim was non-stop live commentary on the history of Jordan & Amman. In contrast, Khalid was a much quieter person. According to Mohammad Shuraim, Jordanians were having a good living and the government was looking after its people very well. Jordan is majority Sunni and the living standards appeared to be good.
Once at the terminal, which was two small rooms and washroom facilities not worth a mention, we handed our passports in and after a few formalities and a few more payments we were boarded onto a 15-seater shuttle bus with some other guests. We paid approximately £5 per person and about £1.50 for large luggage and £1 for small luggage, money money money all the way (it was not too bad in the end). The shuttle bus crossed the few kilometers from Jordan and then we entered Palestine, after a few checks we arrived outside the Arrivals Terminal to witness maybe 150-200 people waiting outside the terminal, waiting to enter. A coach full of UK passengers had arrived at the same time as us. They were mostly from Northampton, Cardiff & Leeds.
We were made to wait in our shuttle bus for about 15 minutes, a security person had already asked where we had come from and then we were allowed to disembark. It took about twenty minutes to have our luggage scanned and we entered the terminal. There were only two counters which were in operation and this is where our passports were first checked. We had all separated and besides myself and Moulana Yusuf Hajat all others had their passports taken and some were asked to open their hand baggage for security checks. All passports were returned as we moved into the hall towards the immigration counters.
All nine of us decided to approach the immigration counter together under the leadership of Moulana Rafiq Sufi, we handed our passports over and the two officials who were on the other side came out of their kiosks and came and asked us the basic questions, where have you come from? Where are you visiting? When we replied ‘The Holy Mosque and Jerusalem’, one of the officials repeatedly asked where else? Is that all? Are you not going anywhere else? Same similar questions over and over again. This is where your patience is tested, we took it easy and after a few minutes, they both went back into their cubicles and we requested that our visas be stamped on card/paper. Again after a few questions, we all received officially printed small forms for visas which we completed and returned, things were looking very smooth. The next question was, ‘Where are you all originally from?’ Eight from India and one from Pakistan was the reply, this did raise an eyebrow and a few minutes later we were all given a detailed form to complete and asked to take seats in the waiting hall of the terminal. As we entered, we saw the group from the UK and few other people and all had been asked to complete the form. It was approximately 2pm. Once the forms were completed, it was just a waiting game, something for which we had been well prepared and which we expected.
There were washroom facilities and a nice little tuck shop with snacks and drinks, and with all the food that we had brought from home the next few hours passed with ease, Salah, dhikr, food, etc. saw us through till about 5pm. During this period, a few people had been called in for questioning and at 5pm Moulana Shafiq was called in. The next two hours were very tense, Moulana Shafiq only made a brief appearance after about an hour to take his mobile phone. These two hours were mostly spent in dhikr & tasbeeh and approximately at 7:30pm Moulana Shafiq was back with us. Although he was absent for some two hours, he had only been questioned for twenty minutes, the main questions relating to his profession (Imam or not), when last he visited Pakistan, purpose of visiting Albania, type of projects MWI undertake etc. Moulana Shafiq had responded very well and very positively. The next hour was again very tense with the possibility of maybe one or two us being taken in for questioning but Masha Allah that did not happen. At 8:30pm, an official started bringing the passports and by 9pm al-Hamdulillah we had all received our passports with our visas stamped on the forms. Allahu Akbar, the feeling was sensational, seven hours felt like seven minutes, everyone was smiling and happy, Masjid Aqsa was just an hour away, Subhan Allah.
As we were leaving the terminal, one or two colleagues were requested to open their hand luggage and soon we were out of the terminal into the taxi waiting area. It was 9:15pm and we arranged a 12-seater to take us to the Hashmi Hotel for £90, not bad. The Palestinian driver, an elderly man drove so fast and within 45 minutes, we witnessed the majestic landscape of Al-Quds, with the Dome of the Rock outstanding on the horizon, magnificent, we were there, Masha Allah. We were dropped off at the Damascus Gate, one of the eight gates that lead into the Old City and as Moulana Rafiq was aware of the routes, we carried our luggage down a flight of steps and walked through Damascus Gate into the alleys of the Old City. The walk for the next five minutes was a very tough one as we all had our luggage with us and we were all tired. We finally saw the Hashmi Hotel sign and arrived at our destination, not yet, there were still some twelve steps up to the reception area and first floor, with our luggage this was some task but we got there (with hindsight, we could have made life easier for us, a phone call to Saleh at Hashmi and he would have arranged a trolley for luggage pick up, but it may have been difficult due to night time).
Moulana Rafiq knew the staff especially the desk manager Saleh and soon we had three triple rooms, one on the first floor and two on the second floor. It was approximately 11pm and everyone felt a bit puckish. Moulana Rafiq looked around for a place to eat nearby but it was closed, however, Saleh ordered pizzas & chips and after a light snack we retired to bed. We had arrived in Al-Quds. I phoned Shaikh Jamil and arranged to meet up with him at 10am the next morning.
First visit to Masjid Aqsa
It was Wednesday 2nd May at 4:45am when we made our first entry into Masjid-e-Aqsa. Upon leaving the Hashmi Hotel, we turned left and then left again and then right at the end of the alleyway and then left again, within seven minutes we entered the courtyard of Masjid Aqsa. The feeling was incredible, words will do no justice to the emotions felt during those few precious moments, the first sight of the Dome of Rock as we passed it was majestic and the entrance into the front building within Masjid-e-Aqsa was just brilliant.
Fajr Adhan had taken place and our first Salah in Masjid Aqsa was so emotional. The Masjid building at the front is huge with magnificent features and chandeliers, the arches decorate the beauty of the Masjid and it is just brilliant. Each row holds approximately 150 people and there were nearly 10 rows in Fajr Salah, the Masjid building can accommodate approximately 10,000 people so the Masjid was just a quarter full. We met with the Imam after Salah and had a small majlis with him for twenty minutes. We spent the remainder time until Ishraq in the Masjid and at 6:45am made our way back to the Hashmi Hotel for breakfast. The view from the hotel restaurant was breathtaking, the whole area of Masjid Aqsa was there before us from the second floor and it was even more beautiful from the top floor, just magnificent.
Breakfast was nice and simple and then we had a rest and met with Shaikh Jamil at 10am, an elderly Palestinian who had spent his whole life in Palestine. Shaikh Jamil was of the view that we should leave immediately and start our ziarats (visits), we agreed and at 11am we left our hotel. The alleyways were full of life, stalls and shops selling anything and everything, the whole place was buzzing, it was unbelievable. We had chosen the Hashmi Hotel specifically for its location within the Old City to get a buzz of life and feel the atmosphere amongst the Palestinians daily lives, it was electric.
From al-Quds to Bethlehem
We first exchanged some money, Shekels is the local Israeli currency and we got 5.80 for £1 which was very good. By this time, we had put another £100 each into our kitty, we also got some US dollars as the Hashmi Hotel required payment in dollars. Shaikh Jamil led us out of the Old City to a nearby bus station and we boarded a bus to Bethlehem, this cost seven Shekels per person. Some forty-five minutes later, we arrived in Bethlehem and amongst a mayhem of taxi drivers Shaikh Jamil finally put his foot down and we all got into a 12-seater minibus. Shaikh Jamil was of the view that it is much cheaper to take a taxi from Bethlehem instead of Jerusalem.
After nearly an hour’s drive, we arrived at the Dead Sea in Jericho, this was our first stop. It is widely believed that this was the place where the nation of Prophet Lut (peace be upon him) was punished by Almighty Allah, as it was a place of punishment we did not stay for long and moved on from there. As it was lunch time, Shaikh Jamil took us to a butcher’s shop where he chose fresh lamb legs, within an hour the butchers prepared fresh lamb kebab sandwiches, it was remarkable, the meal was delicious and it was a real experience.
Maqam Musa is situated in a small Masjid in Jericho and it is in this area that Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) spent some time. Many places in Palestine and Jordan have been named as Maqams. There is no authentic evidence to prove that the named Prophets are resting there, however, there is a possibility that their resting places could be nearby. A small plaque had an inscription of a dream seen by the great Salahuddin Ayyubi (may Allah have mercy on him) which contained a Hadith regarding the location of the resting place of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him). This is where we presented our Salams to this great Prophet.
Maqam Yunus, Halhawl
From here, we moved on to an area known as Halhawl, this is where Maqam Yunus (peace be upon him) is located, again another small Masjid has been constructed at this site. From here, Shaikh Jamil took us to see Masjid Shurhabil ibn Hasanah (may Allah be pleased with him) which had been constructed very recently, financed by the Muslims of Preston UK via Moulana Ilyas Desai. What a wonderful achievement, a nice small Masjid for the local Palestinians.
Al-Khalil, the resting place of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him)
From here, we moved on to Hebron, our destination was the famous historical Masjid al-Khalil. We had to go through very thorough security here. This is one of the most important Masjids in Palestine, it is constructed upon the cemetery which houses the graves of 4 most illustrious Prophets (peace be upon them) and their wives. Part of the Masjid has been taken over by the Zionists and converted into a synagogue. Underneath the Masjid lies the resting places of Prophet Ibrahim, his son Prophet Ishaq, his son Prophet Yakub and his son Prophet Yusuf and all their wives (peace be upon them all). Subhan Allah, Masha Allah, what a blessed place. This is also the Masjid where many Palestinians were martyred in Fajr Salah in 1994 and this area is always very tense.
It had been a long day as we made our way to Maqam Lut, again another small Masjid had been built at this site.
Dome of the Rock
From here, we returned back to Bethlehem and took the bus back to Jerusalem and arrived at the Dome of the Rock (Qubbatus Sakhrah) in time for Isha Salah. The trip had cost us 70 Shekels each (£12pp).
The Dome of the Rock is a magnificent building with a beautiful interior. The hexagon shape of the building with the gold dome and inscription of Surah Yaseen all around makes it outstanding. After Isha Salah, we made our way to the basement area, this is where the rock lies from where our Prophet ﷺ ascended the heavens in the night of Me’raj. The mehrabs of Prophet Musa and Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon them) are within this basement, we had the opportunity to pray here. The Qubbah is used mostly by the ladies and five times Salah in congregation also takes place here.
We then went looking for a place to eat, everything starts to close after Maghrib Salah and after Isha Salah hardly any shop is open. All takeaways and restaurants were shut but one restaurant owner very kindly re-opened for us and we had pizza & chips.
Our hotel was situated within the Old City which has eight gates. We were informed that one gate was shut, our entrance was always from the Damascus Gate. The alleys of the Old City are really amazing, a number of narrow streets all lined up with shops and stalls on both sides, many steps up and down with cobblestones, cleaned very thoroughly every night, buzzing with an electric atmosphere during the day and almost deserted at night. Hashmi Hotel is five minutes from Damascus Gate, staff like Saleh and Amjad are very friendly, hotel is conveniently located but rooms are small and bathrooms are very narrow, maybe not ideal for families, however, if you want to get the buzz of the Old City then Hashmi Hotel is the place to be.
We returned back to the Hotel and before sleeping went to a nearby call center by the name of Mike’s Center, here we made very good friends with the owner Muneeb and nearly every night we used to end up here. Besides very cheap phone calls, nice ice-cold drinks and a very friendly chat with Muneeb. His story of how he came became a practising Muslim was very touching and the imprisonment of his son for blinding an Israeli soldier had earned him a ten-year prison sentence. Muneeb would mention his son with so much pride, amazing.
Next morning was Thursday 3rd May and we were in Masjid Aqsa at the Adhan of Tahajjud, we stayed in the Masjid till after Fajr Salah. The Masjid is locked after Isha and opens at Tahajjud time, Israelis patrol outside the Masjid doors and Palestinian officials on the inside. We took a rest, had breakfast where we met Maryam (the cook) who had an emotional story to tell, her husband & son were in prison, it was so sad to hear.
Shaikh Jamil arrived at 8am and we took the bus to Bethlehem. Travelling on public transport gave us an opportunity to witness first-hand the daily life of the Palestinians, something which cannot be seen if taxis are constantly used. Stops at regular checkpoints where all under 40s have to get off to show their IDs, women with children, over 40s and foreigners stay on the bus where security officials do their normal checks. We had heard that Palestinians were treated as prisoners in their own land, today we witnessed this with our own eyes, our blood was boiling.
We arrived at the one of holiest sites of Christianity, the Church of the Nativity. There were hundreds of Christian tourists and pilgrims there and we were made to feel very welcome indeed. Many different denominations occupy different sections of the church. There was a very big queue towards the left at the front, this was leading down to the basement area where lies the exact spot where the miraculous birth of Prophet Isa (peace be upon him) is reported to have taken place. This is the Christian belief and later on we were informed by the locals that this birthplace of Prophet Isa (peace be upon him) is quite authentic, although Muslim scholars have different views regarding this.
Due to a big queue, we decided to come back later. Opposite the church was Masjid Umar and nearby was a restaurant which according to Shaikh Jamil was very famous for its falafel, a traditional famous Palestinian sandwich. This is where we had lunch, the falafel with salad and chips was very tasty. We performed our Dhuhr Salah at Masjid Umar and then queued up inside the church to see the birthplace of Prophet Isa (peace be upon him). This took nearly an hour, we walked down some very narrow steps into the basement area and saw a few places of significance after which we returned back to Jerusalem.
Tour of Al-Quds
We visited the Christian Quarter and arrived at the Church of the Sepulcher, another of Christianity’s holiest sites. It is believed that this is where Prophet Isa (peace be upon him) was crucified, a belief contrary to Islamic teachings. There was a big queue here as well to see the exact place of crucifixion. We did not join the queue, instead saw the other few places of significance according to Christian beliefs and left.
We then visited the Masjid & Khanqah of Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi (may Allah have mercy on him), the Conqueror of Palestine. The Masjid has been well preserved and restored thanks to the great efforts and sacrifices of our host Shaikh Jamil, There are a lot of artefacts and inscriptions relating to this great warrior and hero of Islam, Salahuddin Ayyubi. It is said that Hadrat Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) conquered Jerusalem, Salahuddin Ayyubi liberated it, and now the Muslim World awaits another Umar & Salahuddin.
Our next stop was Masjid Umar, again this Masjid has been preserved by the efforts of Shaikh Jamil and very recently a large area was discovered which is in a dilapidated condition, this area is also being restored. There a few inscriptions and artefacts here as well which reflect upon the history of the time when Hadrat Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) came to Jerusalem. This Masjid needs urgent attention.
We finished around 6pm and decided to eat before Maghrib so that we could spend the evening in Masjid Aqsa. We had chicken and chips at a nearby restaurant, the owner was very friendly and said he would prepare the traditional Maqlubah dish for us on Saturday evening. We performed Maghrib and Isha in Masjid Aqsa and al-Hamdulillah managed to complete the recitation of one Quran between us during this time. After Isha Salah, we went wondering outside the Old City through Damascus Gate and ended up having a chicken shawarma at the stalls outside the Old City. Moulana Hasan Patel had not been so well so we took a shawarma for him to the hotel.
The next day was Friday 4th May, again Tahajjud and Fajr Salah at Masjid Aqsa, rest, breakfast and then into the courtyard of Al-Quds at 11am. One can enter the courtyard from a number of doors, once you enter, the whole area is part of Masjid Aqsa, it comprises of 35 acres of land and at full capacity can accommodate over half a million people. We first briefly met with the Imam and then went to visit the Musalla Marwani.
Musalla Marwani is built underground and most of the Masjid is under the present front building of Masjid Aqsa. It can accommodate thousands of people. The local tour guide showed us around. We saw the Mehrabs of Prophet Zakaria (peace be upon him) and Hazrat Maryam (peace be upon her). There is also a raised platform that shows the direction the Muslims would face in Salah before being ordered to face the Holy Ka’bah in Makkah, two totally opposite directions. In one corner, we saw huge massive blocks, our host informed us that these were the rocks that were carried by the Jinns when Prophet Sulayman (peace be upon him) constructed the Masjid, we also saw some pillars made out of huge rocks.
It was also sad to see some of the pillars which had markings on them which reflected the era when this area was used at stables for horses, there was also a raised area where the water was stored for the horses, we also saw some cracks in the pillars which had resulted from underground digging to weaken the foundations. The name of Shaikh Salah Raed was mentioned a few times as the one who had raised a lot of concerns over this and strived to preserve and prepare this Musalla underground.
Masjid Aqsa was filling up so we made our way into the Masjid building at the front for Jumaah Salah. Once again this was a very emotional moment, over 20,000 people performed Jumuah Salah that Friday at Masjid Aqsa.
After Jumuah, we met with Shaikh Jamil and went to tour the local cemetery. Many martyrs of Al-Quds are resting here and amongst them were resting two great companions, Shaddad ibn Aws and Ubadah ibn Samit (may Allah be pleased with them). We had the opportunity to present our Salams and do some Isale Thawab (send reward) for all who were resting here.
Shaikh Jamil then took us to the Jewish Quarter and soon we were standing at the Buraq Wall, known as the Western Wall and even more famously as the Wailing Wall. This part of the area is dominated by the Jews and few eyebrows were raised as we made our way to the wall. I do not think many Muslims will have done that. As it was a Friday afternoon, it was relatively quiet, however, there was a clear distinction and complete separate areas for men and women. It is the belief of the Jews that this is the only part left of the original temple built by Prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him).
It was a very sad few moments which we spent in the Jewish Quarter, we were informed that at one time 20,000 Muslims resided here, now there were hardly 50. The whole area is occupied by the Jews.
As we left this area, we were quite hungry and entered the first restaurant we saw, again it was chicken shawarma with chips and salad with fresh orange juice, there were ten of us and the bill was a hefty 500 Shekels (£100). Some, not all Palestinians take advantage of tourists, Shaikh Jamil was fuming.
Mount of Olives
We then took a taxi to the Mount of Olives from where you get a breathtaking view of the whole of Al-Quds. Mount of Olives has also been taken over by the Jews and a part of it has been converted into a graveyard. We took the taxi back and made our way to the Dome of the Rock where we offered our Maghrib Salah and collectively did a recitation of the whole Quran and then offered Isha Salah. Our days in Al-Quds were coming to an end. We went out of the Old City through Damascus Gate to a nearby restaurant for the evening meal, chicken shawarma and chips.
Saturday 5th May was our last full day in Al-Quds. After Tahajjud, Fajr, rest and breakfast, we made our way to the Al-Aqsa sanctuary again and headed for Masjid-e-Buraq. This a very small building on the left of the main Masjid building at the front as you face the Qiblah. Our host showed us the place where the Buraq was tied on the night of Meraj.
We again did a full tour of Musalla Marwani and then did a full inside tour of both the main building at the front of Masjid Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. There are so many places of significance in both buildings. In the Dome of the Rock, we were shown the place where there is a footprint of our beloved Prophet Mohammad ﷺ , there is still a fragrance emitting from this site, Subhanallah.
After offering Dhuhr Salah in Masjid Aqsa, the Imam took us to a house where a janazah had taken place three days earlier. It is a custom in Palestine that only close family and relatives visit on the first two days and the general people visit on the third day. We had saved this time for shopping, believe it or not, we had passed by hundreds of shops and stalls everyday but had not yet bought a thing for family and friends. We could not refuse the Imam so went to pay our respects, here we had the traditional Palestinian Maqlubah rice with lamb on the bone, it was OK.
Then it was time for shopping. We looked for Shaikh Jamil’s stall and found it after a lot of wandering around, we separated into small groups, myself and Moulana Usman were exhausted so we decided to take a rest and start again after Asr Salah.
We performed our Asr in Masjid Aqsa and then started shopping after coming out from one of the main gates, either the Chain Gate or Gate of the Cotton Weavers. This was the place for shopping, within an hour we had bags full of Palestinian souvenirs to take home, plaques with the Dome of the Rock, fridge magnets, keyrings, tasbihs in Palestinian flag colours, bangles, a wooden carving of The Dome of the Rock, not to forget the fresh Palestinian Medjool dates and Palestinian Turkish Delights. Wonderful, we could have shopped and shopped but with half an hour to go to Maghrib Salah, we called it a day.
This was our last evening in Palestine and we offered our Maghrib and Isha Salah in Masjid Aqsa and spent the time in between in the Masjid, we were all in our own corners and our hearts were crying, when will we get an opportunity to return again? It was so emotional. That evening we went for a Maqlubah dawat and had invited Shaikh Jamil and Saleh to eat with us, this Maqlubah was brilliant, similar to Biryani, it was very tasty.
Departure from al-Quds
Sunday 6th May was our final day here. We performed Tahajjud and Fajr Salah in Masjid Aqsa, the Imam did a short dua after Fajr for us and finally the moment arrived when we had to say farewell to Masjid Aqsa for the time being. Words will not do justice to the sadness and emotions felt at those precise moment, hearts were shattered, eyes were full of tears and it was as though Masjid Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock were saying ‘Is that it? Are you going? Can you not do anything for us? Most of us had visited Makkah and Madinah and although you leave with sadness you leave with the feeling that they are in safe hands & custody, however, leaving Baitul Muqaddas makes you feel so guilty, it truly was a sad moment.
We had our breakfast, said our farewells and soon we were travelling in a minibus back to the King Hussain Bridge (Allenby Bridge). As our minibus left Jerusalem, we caught one last glimpse of the Dome of The Rock and soon it was out of sight.
The return border crossing was very straightforward, security checks at the terminal, exit stamp and cross over to the other side, we were in Jordan within an hour. We had left Hashmi Hotel at 8am and at 10am we were in Jordan. We had phoned Mohammad Shuraim and soon we were back into our two vehicles heading back to Amman.
Maqam of Prophet Shuaib and Ashabul Kahf
We decided to visit Maqam Shoayb as it was on route. The Masjid is located here amongst some beautiful valleys. From here, we went to the Sadeen Hotel which was four star and very good and after freshening up we moved on to the Cave of the Seven Sleepers (Ashabul Kahaf). A very small door leads on to this cave and inside are seven tombs. The location of the Ashabul Kahaf is not exactly known although the possibility of it being in Jordan is strong. Some old bones can be viewed through a glass panel.
It was late afternoon and everyone was hungry and tired. We went into a restaurant where we enjoyed chicken shawarma and chips, just £27 for the eleven of us and then headed straight for the Sadeen Hotel. We rested for some three hours. We then went out for a stroll, prayed our Isha Salah in a nearby local Masjid and went looking for a restaurant where we had shawarma sandwiches, then it was time to rest.
Site of Battle of Mu’tah
The next day was Monday 7th May and this day will be well remembered and cherished by all of us. Although everything is an anti-climax after you leave Masjid Aqsa but this day was special. We left bright and early at 8am and headed for Mu’ta, the famous area where the battle of Mu’ta took place. It was a few hours drive and we stopped on the way for some snacks and refreshments. Our driver Mohammad Shuraim was very jolly and always full of smiles and laughter and this made the journey even more enjoyable.
We arrived at Mu’tah and were blessed with the opportunity to pay our respects and convey our Salams to three very prominent companions: Jafar ibn Abi Talib, Zayd ibn Haritha and Abdullah ibn Rawahah (may Allah be pleased with them). It was very emotional, especially as we had Mufti Taqi Usmani’s Jahan-e-Deedah with us and before presenting ourselves to the tombs of these illustrious Companions we collectively studied their lives and the sacrifices they had given to safeguard Islam. We also visited the nearby cemetery where it is believed that many hundreds of companions are resting. Mufti Taqi Saheb has written extensively on the martyrs of Mu’tah, a must read for all Muslims.
We then headed towards the resting places of a number of other companions in the Jordan Valley, Muadh ibn Jabal, Abdur Rahman ibn Muadh ibn Jabal, Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, Saad ibn Abi Waqqas, Amir ibn Abi Waqqas, Dirar ibn al-Azwar, Shurhabil ibn Hasanah (may Allah be pleased with them). It was such a spiritual experience, tomb after tomb of such exalted personalities. Mufti Taqi Saheb has written detailed accounts of all of these companions and we collectively studied each personality before visiting their resting places.
We then passed by the Dead Sea on the Jordan side and also saw the rock which is believed to be the wife of Prophet Lut who was punished by Almighty Allah, only Allah knows best.
Maqam Yusha ibn Nun
It was getting late and we still had one more visit, the tomb of Prophet Yusha ibn Noon (peace be upon him). We made it here just after Isha and had the opportunity to present our Salams to this great Prophet. It had been a remarkable day which ended with a very expensive barbeque at 11:30pm, £170 for eleven of us! Moulana Mohammad Ali Nagdi paid £100.
The next morning was Tuesday 8th May and we left after breakfast and after saying our farewells to Mohammad Shuraim and Khalid, we did a little bit of shopping at the airport and took the 11am flight to Dubai. We spent the day in Dubai and were back at the airport at 12 midnight and took the 3am flight to Manchester which landed at 8am. Haji Bashir arrived at 8:45am and by 10:30am we had all reached home safe and sound. The visit to Al Quds and Jordan will always be ranked amongst the best of my journeys and the memories of this journey will be cherished forever.
Summary of Accounts published in Asian Image
Upon our return, I informed Shoayb Khan of the Asian Image newspaper regarding our visit and offered to write him a version so that others could also be encouraged to embark on this memorable journey. He kindly agreed and requested me to do an 800-word article for the June 2012 edition of Asian Image. I put my recollections together and produced below is the first part of this article with a few revisions, a further two parts were added on later.
A memorable visit to Palestine & Jordan (Part 1)
By the Grace of the Almighty, a lifelong dream was fulfilled in the first week of May this year. Myself and eight other colleagues embarked on a journey of a lifetime, a journey to visit The Holy Lands of Palestine & Jordan.
Upon our arrival at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, we got a warm friendly reception from the officials and were issued with visas for Jordan. Soon we were travelling through the deserts of Jordan heading towards the King Hussain Bridge border crossing (also known as Allenby Bridge). Within an hour we had arrived at the terminal and after a few formalities boarded the official border minibus to cross over onto the other side.
After a few kilometers, we arrived at the border check point for entry into Palestine. There were a few hundred people waiting to enter the terminal and after approx. 45 minutes it was our turn. Our baggage was screened, passports checked and soon we were at the immigration desk. This is where the questioning began, why were we here? Which places we were intending to visit? It is at this point that your patience is put to the test, similar questions again and again. We had requested that our visas be stamped on a card not our passports, this is an important point to keep in mind as holders of passports with the Israeli visa stamp are usually denied entry into countries like Saudi Arabia. This request raised more questions but finally we were given the visa cards to fill in. We were then given a form to complete and requested to take a seat in the waiting room. It was approx. 2pm and some seven hours later our passports were returned to us with the visas stamped onto our visa cards, the wait had been well worth it.
Our minibus driver drove very fast and within an hour we got the first glimpse of the Qubbatus Sakhrah (The Dome of the Rock), it was majestic. It was 10:30pm as we entered the Old City of Jerusalem through the famous Damascus Gate, we settled into the Hashmi Hotel, the only Palestinian owned hotel within the Old City.
We made our first entry into Masjid-e-Aqsa for Fajr the next morning which was Wednesday 2nd May, words will not do justice to the feelings and emotions felt as we entered the courtyard. Fajr Salah was very emotional. The Masjid is beautifully decorated and there were some 1,500 people for Fajr Salah. After Fajr, we met with one of the Imams who blessed us with his duas and enlightened us with his words of wisdom.
The courtyard which houses Masjid Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock is huge, it is spread over 35 acres and the whole area is known as Baitul Muqaddas (The Holy Lands), it can hold up to half a million people. This whole area and the surrounding land is very blessed as many Prophets resided here. There are many places of great importance and significance within Baitul Muqaddas but four areas stand out from the rest.
Situated at the furthest corner of the courtyard is the Masjid Aqsa, the Masjid with the dark grey dome. It has a capacity of approx. 10,000 and the interior is beautiful. As you step out of Masjid Aqsa, you are directly opposite the Dome of the Rock, a magnificent building which has been built upon the rock from where the Me’raj (Ascension) of our Holy Prophet Mohammadﷺ began. The hexagon shape of the building with the gold dome and the inscription of Surah Yaseen all around the exterior adds to the beauty, a unique masterpiece. It is in the basement area of this Masjid where lies the rock from where the Me’raj began. The Mehrabs of Prophet Musa and Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon them) are also located here.
A point of clarification here is that many people think that the Dome of the Rock (the Masjid with the golden dome) is Masjid-e-Aqsa only, this is not the case. This confusion is due to the reason that the Dome of the Rock dominates the skyline of Baitul Muqaddas & Jerusalem and stands out due to it being constructed at a higher point than other buildings in the Masjid Aqsa complex, there are some 15/20 steps that one needs to climb to get to the Dome of the Rock, hence this confusion. However, without a shadow of doubt, the whole courtyard is blessed and part of Masjid Aqsa and that also includes the Dome of the Rock along with the building at the front which is commonly referred to as Masjid Aqsa.
The third most significant area is Musalla Marwani, situated on the left side of the front of Masjid Aqsa as you face the Qiblah, this Masjid is built underground in the basement area and can accommodate thousands of people. One of the most important aspects attributed to Masjid Aqsa is the leading of all the Prophets (peace be upon them) in prayers on the night of Me’raj by our beloved Prophet Mohammad ﷺ, only Almighty Allah knows the exact location where this took place, we were informed by the local guide that this event took place where the present Musalla Marwani stands. This Masjid is full of history, it contains the Mehrab (Niche) of Prophet Zakaria (peace be upon him), the Mehrab of Maryam (peace be upon her), the massive rocks and stones that were carried by the Jinns to help in its construction and it also has a platform indicating the direction of Masjid Aqsa, the first Qiblah.
The fourth most important area within this courtyard is Masjid Buraq. This small Masjid is named after the fast-winged horse which transported the Holy Prophetﷺ from Makkah to Jerusalem. The Buraq was tied at this place after which the ascension to the heavens took place. One of the walls has a small hole, our guide informed us that this is exactly where the Buraq was kept, only Allah knows best.
Journey to the blessed lands (part 2)
Once we had familiarised ourselves with Masjid Aqsa and its surroundings in Jerusalem, we set off to visit the other blessed sites. We took the local bus from Jerusalem and arrived in the famous town of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Prophet Isa (peace be upon him). From here, we took a minibus and some two hours later arrived at the Dead Sea in Jericho, this is the place where the nation of Prophet Lut (peace be upon him) was punished by The Almighty for their immoral deeds. As it was an area where the wrath and anger of The Almighty descended, we only stopped for a few minutes and moved on. The Dead Sea extends from Palestine to Jordan and is 400 feet below sea level, a fish would not remain alive in the water for even a minute.
Whilst in Jericho, we visited Maqam Musa, the place where Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) had spent some time. We also had the opportunity to see Masjid Shurahbeel ibn Hasanah, a nice small Masjid financed by the Muslims of Preston UK for the Muslims of Palestine, what a wonderful gift. From Jericho, we moved onto a nearby town by the name Halhawl where we visited Maqam Yunus (peace be upon him). It is important to point out here that all places titled with Maqam (resting place) indicate that the named Prophet resided there for a while, however, there is a possibility that their resting place may be elsewhere.
Our next stop was Hebron, the famous town which is home to the famous Masjid Khalil which is constructed upon the graves which contains the resting places of four very illustrious Prophets and their families. As we approached the entrance, there was a full security check on us and the Masjid was well guarded with security guards all over. It was very sad to see that half of the Masjid had been converted into a synagogue, hence no access for Muslims.
We entered the Masjid and had the opportunity to convey our salams to Prophet Ibrahim, his son Prophet Ishaq, his son Prophet Yakub and his son Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon them), we also conveyed our salams to their wives who are resting there as well, it was such an emotional moment. There is a slight opening in the floor of the Masjid but very difficult to see the graves underneath, may The Almighty return this complete Masjid back into the hands of the Muslims, Ameen.
It had been a very long day taking in a lot of famous historical places, our last visit of the day was to Maqam Lut (peace be upon him). From here we returned back to Bethlehem and got the bus back to Jerusalem, we had heard that Palestine was home to many Prophets, today we had witnessed this first hand, it was a dream come true.
The next day was Thursday and again we took the local bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, we witnessed firsthand how the local Palestinians are treated, there are checkpoints at regular intervals where all Palestinians under the age of forty have to get off the bus and show there ID cards, foreigners and families with children remain on the bus where security officials check the documents. The patience of the Palestinians is surely put to the test, prisoners in their own countries, it was so frustrating.
We arrived at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, one of the holiest sites in Christianity. We were given a very warm welcome by the priests and had the opportunity to see the exact spot where the miraculous birth of Prophet Isa (peace be upon him) is reported to have taken place, the church was crowded with visitors from all over the world and is maintained by a number of Christian denominations. An anti-war protest was held in front of the church on 30th March 2003 in which Father Pancratius, the residing parish priest banned George W Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair and Jack Straw forever from entering the church for their role in the Iraq war. He described them as child killers, who would tarnish the church if they entered it. Well done Father Pancratius.
One of the most famous of Palestinian foods is known as Falafel, a small round kebab made out of chick peas and vegetables, Falafel sandwiches were our lunch that day and they were delicious. From Bethlehem we returned back to Jerusalem and headed for the Christian Quarter, this is where the church of the Holy Sepulchre is located, another of Christianity`s holiest sites. According to Christian belief, this is the place where Jesus was crucified, a belief contrary to Islam. We had a brief tour of the church and moved on.
The next day was Friday, we offered our Jumuah Salah amongst thousands of Palestinians in Masjid Aqsa, it was a glorious sight. We visited the cemetery of the martyrs where we conveyed our salams to the Shaddad ibn Aws and Ubadah ibn Samit (may Allah be pleased with them), two great companions of our beloved Prophet ﷺ.
We visited the Jewish quarter and made our way to the Buraq Wall (known as the Western or Wailing Wall), we prayed that this area comes under Muslim control once again. Amongst the many other places we visited, the Masjid of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) and the Khanqah of Sultan Salauhuddin Ayyubi (may Allah have mercy on him) were the most significant, indeed it was the sacrifices of these two illustrious personalities that liberated Al Quds previously, as the saying goes:
“Al Quds was conquered by Umar, liberated by Salahuddin Ayyubi, who is there for liberation now?”
We spent five memorable days in Al-Quds, we then took a minibus back to the border crossing and within an hour were back into Jordan.
A Visit to Al-Quds – Part 3 (Jordan)
Upon our return to Jordan, our first stop was Maqam Shoayb, the place where Prophet Shoayb (peace be upon him) spent some time. We then moved onto the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, this is a cave on the outskirts of Amman which is associated with the famous story mentioned in Surah al-Kahf in the 15th Juz of the Qur’an. In brief, a group of friends who had belief in one God took refuge in a cave to protect themselves from the ruler of the time who did not believe in God, once at this cave they fell asleep and woke up some 300 years later. The entrance to the cave was quite narrow and once inside we saw the shapes of seven graves carved out of stone and also a few old bones. The sacrifices given by these youth to safeguard and protect their religion and belief was beyond imagination.
The next day was our final day in Jordan and this was one of the highlights of our journey. Within a period of twelve hours, we were blessed with the opportunity of visiting the resting places of a number of eminent companions, who were some of the closest and dearest companions of our beloved Prophet ﷺ. Leaving Amman, we travelled some three hours to a place called Mu’tah, this is where the famous battle of Mu’tah took place. Here we visited the resting places of our Prophet’s cousin brother Jafar ibn Abi Talib, our Prophet’s adopted son Zayd ibn Haritha and Abdullah ibn Rawahah (may Allah be pleased with them). These three illustrious companions of our Prophet ﷺ sacrificed their lives to protect and propagate Islam and attained martyrdom at Mu’tah.
We then moved onto the resting places of the most learned companion regarding Halal and Haram, Muadh ibn Jabal and his son Abdur Rahman ibn Muadh ibn Jabal, the most trustworthy companions Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah and one of the most bravest companions Dirar ibn al-Azwar (may Allah be pleased with them). We also had the opportunity to visit the resting places of Sad ibn Abi Waqqas, his brother Amir ibn Abi Waqqas and Shurahbil ibn Hasanah (may Allah be pleased with them).
This had been a remarkable day which ended with a visit to the resting place of another great Prophet, Yusha ibn Nun (peace be upon him), it had been a memorable day. We also had the opportunity to have a brief stop at the Dead Sea which is on the Jordan side, as mentioned in part one this was the place where the wrath of The Almighty descended upon the nation of Prophet Lut (peace be upon him) for their immoral deeds. Our guide showed us a rock on a nearby mountain which was in the form of a human being, it is believed that the wife of Prophet Lut was turned into a rock by The Almighty for her disobedience, may The Almighty protect us all, Ameen.
We spent eight memorable days in Al-Quds, a visit that will be cherished and remembered by all nine of us for a very long time to come. When we left Masjid Aqsa, it was as though the Masjid and the surroundings were giving us a message, is that all? You came, stayed for a few days and now you are going again? Are you not going to do anything to liberate us? It was as though the walls of the Masjid were crying out! The feelings and emotions of that precise moment cannot be captured in words.
To conclude, the purpose of presenting these three articles on ‘A Visit to Al-Quds’ is to encourage each and every reader to make this memorable journey, at least once in a lifetime. If Allah Almighty has blessed you with health and wealth and you have performed your Hajj, then make Al-Quds your next destination. When we visit the blessed city of Makkah and the illuminated city of Madinah, the Masjids and courtyards are over flowing with people, hundreds and thousands from each and every corner of the globe, alas, when you enter Masjid Aqsa the Masjid is two thirds empty, a sight that makes the heart bleed and the eyes weep. Our mothers and sisters find it very difficult to enter Masjid Haram in Makkah and Masjid Nabawi in Madinah due to the huge crowds, however, the ladies section in Masjid Aqsa is nearly always empty.
Therefore, my message to all brothers and especially the sisters is that go and pay a visit to Masjid Aqsa. Al-Quds is waiting for you. May Allah Almighty liberate Al-Quds and bless us all with an opportunity to visit the Holy Lands again and again, Ameen.
 Refer to the following link for more information in this regard: http://islamicportal.co.uk/grave-of-prophet-ibrahim-and-other-prophets/.