Backing up………….

Some thoughts on the flight from Jeddah to Madina:

After three days in Makkah and completing my Ummrah, spending time in the Haram, and tawaf with lots and lots of dua I arrived at the Jeddah airport to catch my flight to Medinah.

It was broad daylight when the plane took off. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed and full of anticipation of finessing my ebadah single mindedly in the Masjed e Nabvi.

As the Plane flew between Jeddah and Medinah I noticed that the terrain was rocky and in some places outright mountainous, I could see roads weaving through the mountains and valleys like a girls ribbon thrown down carelessly looping here and straightened there.

Along the way were some dwellings, a bunch of flat topped homes, It is not clear what the people living in this God forsaken place did for a living………….and suddenly ibn Ishaqs description of this part of the Hijra came alive.

It was this hike taken through mountain and vale at the command of Allah that initiates the Muslim calendar and gives guidance to those who can no longer bear to stay where they are due to oppression caused by their adherence to their faith.

Two immigrations had taken place prior to this to Abyssinia. The second of them was led by jafar abi ibn Talib brother of Ali (RA) whose famous speech in the King Negus court is a sentinel in history. Quraish pursing the Muslim immigrants had arrived in King Negus court and told him that these people that these Muslims were fugitives from justice and do not even believe in Jesus and Mary.

It reminds me of the immigrants today who flee because they are relegated as practicing Muslims labeled terrorists by their agnostic or secular ruler in their home countries. US used to be a sanctuary for asylum of those who had been oppressed by their own, this is inscribed in the base of the Stature of Liberty. However the milk of human kindness has dried up in the US for Muslim immigrants.

I am also reminded of atheists of today who follow the same line of thought and expression in lighting the fire of dissent between Muslims and Christians.

Jafar and his contingent of immigrants were summoned. Jafar remembered his instructions from Prophet Muhammad pbuh “ Either tell the truth or remain silent” How in the world was he going to answer the question of Jesus and Mary in a Christian court where all the priests will be ready to pounce on him and his companions.

“Ja’far made a most memorable defense. Following is a summary of his speech in the court of Axum in answer to the questions posed by the Christian king.

O King! We were ignorant people and we lived like wild animals. The strong among us lived by preying upon the weak. We obeyed no law and we acknowledged no authority save that of brute force. We worshipped idols made of stone or wood, and we knew nothing of human dignity. And then God, in His Mercy, sent to us His Messenger who was himself one of us. We knew about his truthfulness and his integrity. His character was exemplary, and he was the most well-born of the Arabs. He invited us toward the worship of One God, and he forbade us to worship idols. He exhorted us to tell the truth, and to protect the weak, the poor, the humble, the widows and the orphans. He ordered us to show respect to women, and never to slander them. We obeyed him and followed his teachings. Most of the people in our country are still polytheists, and they resented our conversion to the new faith, which is called Islam. They began to persecute us and it was in order to escape from persecution by them that we sought and found sanctuary in your kingdom.”

 Nagashi or king Negus asked him: “ What do you have to say about Jesus? And Mary?”

Jafar ibn abi Talib felt his tongue loosen and without volition, Surah Maryam the 19 surah from the Quran poured out in all its sweetness and pathos as sent from Allah via Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad pbuh. Its rendition of the story of the angel Gabriel approaching Mary and saying “ God has ordained that you will have a son”, shocked she says “ I never been touched by a man how can I have a son”

Gabriel replies “He is Allah when he says BE so its!

The stunned silence in the court, the tears in the eyes of the priests and the glimmer of tears in the eyes of Nagashi was a death knell for the Quraish. They left and the immigrants were assured asylum and any help they needed.

That was the second migration to Abyssinia and it contained 83 men and 18 women and was headed by Jafar ibn abi Talib from the tribe of Banu Hashim.

The migration of the Prophet with his best friend was a two-man immigration and it was mostly on foot from Mecca to Medina.

In a moment when discovery by the Quraish seemed imminent, when they were hiding in the Cave of Thawr and the hoofs of the horses of Quraish were above their heads pawing at the dirt covering the opening of the cave Prophet Muhammad said to Abu Bakr Siddique: grieve not for the third among us is Allah.

The Hijra or the immigration of the Prophet pbuh had been blessed by Allah and commanded by him at a particular point in the message.

As my plane flies over the mountains, naked, of vegetation, dark and unforgiving, I think of the two men trudging for miles and arriving at one of these small habitations or a single home of a shepherd.

As Ibn Ishaq historian of the life to the Prophet reports: The prophet pbuh and his companion reach a shepherd’s home and only the wife is home. Can we have something to drink they say, looking at the lone goat standing in the corner, though she looks emaciated and sickly. The woman of the hut looks at the two men covered with dust and something in the younger one catches her eye and draws her. “You can try milking her if you like but she has been dry and sickly for a while” she says as she points to the lone goat.

Gently the Prophet approaches the goat and takes a bowl and milks the goat. Milk pours into the bowl and fills it to the amazement of the woman of the house. He hands it to Abu Bakr who drinks it, and then he fills another bowl and drinks from it and then a third and hands it to his hostess.

She watches them disappear into the horizon, stunned and speechless at what she had witnessed.

A goat that had not given milk in ages, had been sickly had produced at the hand of that man the freshest and most delicious milk she had ever drunk.

The plane continues, the flight is not long but the terrain below is arresting. It alternates between dark Rocky Mountains and flat dessert sand; few dwellings here and there dot the path.

We land into Madinah airport and the hubbub of the street makes me forget that I am passing the mountain of Uhud where one of the most historic battles between the Muslims and the pagan Quraish took place. A large part of the 3rd chapter of the Quran is dedicated to the lessons Muslims must learn from this battle.

It is much later on an evening after Asr that I am reminded of the mountain of Uhud.

I am in the Haram, and fall asleep after Asr. The sleep is sweet in the Masjed the only disadvantage being that you need to renew your wudu upon awakening.

I come out into the courtyard to do wudu after Asr and see a Pakistani looking woman with niqab, sitting on the steps.

I ask her a question and find her to be a fount of knowledge. I sit down to listen to her. She has been living in Saudi Arabia for a while and since her husband works here she and her family has been to a large number of the historic places pertaining to our Prophet pbuh which are not even known to most people.

We talk about how all the martyrs of Uhud have been moved to the Jannat al Baqi. Yes she says, except Hamza. When they came to get Hamza ‘s (RA) body they said they heard the mountain of Uhud weep. It said, if you do not leave any martyrs buried at my feet, I will go to where they are” shocked the men excavating the graves ran, and the grave of Hamza and some of his accompanying martyrs have never been touched since then.

The mountain of Uhud stands in the background watching the play of the cars coming and going strutting their lights and gizmos, very much like an adult watches kids play with matchbox cars. I feel its presence, and yet I am looking ahead………….to the Green Dome and what lies below it!



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