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 the precincts of the mosque what you feel is happiness, the elation comes later if it does: Dr Z put it so aptly “ I feel so happy; I don’t know why but I feel happy”
Stepping on to the path going to the mosque which holds the Tabarakkat of the Prophet pbuh) and is the last resting place of His closest Sahabi Eyup Ansari RA the Presence is felt by all irrespective of caste, color or creed.
At this point you can never be closer to the Prophet RA other than being in the Masjed Nabwi.
Immediately the inner landscape is spliced in three: Firstly there is the external movements that you do of walking through the crowd, looking at the glittering crystal tasbeehs lighted by the evening light, or finding a place in the women’s musallah or spreading the blanket for the iftar picnic in the mosque grounds. Secondly is the inner spirituality that is buffeted by the energy of others around you all focused and seeking the same thing i.e. the nearness to Allah and his Rasool and all of those he loved and respected (Eyup Ansari RA) and thirdly is your inner most spirit that takes flight as you fall in place with the hundreds of women in the compound and in the mosque all focused on prayer, supplication and hoping for the flight to the upper dimensions towards the Divine.
As one carries on the logistics, which by the virtue of the night and state of mind and heart begin to fall in place like pieces of mosaic being placed where they will shine with maximum beauty.
The logistical uniqueness of Eyup Sultan is that all visitors are reverent, the cleaners are reverent and the helpers who set out and take up the prayer mats are reverent even the guards that stand at the edges of the crowd are respectful and reverent.
Men and women from all over Turkey and perhaps neighboring countries gather in the courtyard of Eyup Sultan, hallowed grounds, which hold the tabarrukaat of the Prophet pbuh and the remains of Eyup Ansari. We feel the lightness of the night and the peeking of the stars through the cloud shift, as the Turk telecom neon sign blinks to call you to connect……..the aroma of freshly brewed coffee assails the nostrils at tarawih, the breeze sweeps away the cares of the world and the slick straws of the scrupulously clean prayer mats call to you with their mosaic design in the courtyard.
The sweepers continuously sweep up the crumbs and the litter, and the by the time iftar ends the courtyard is clean enough to eat off of it.
The maghrib adhan is followed shortly with recitation of the Quran and suddenly the minaret light shines through the wings of the seagulls as they fly round, silent and focused on their tawaf.
It is a surreal night, the woman who has taken my spot when I went to refresh my wudu hugs me and makes place for me. The women next to me are from the Black Sea area and have travelled hundreds of miles to come to Abe Sultan as it is called affectionately, share food with us, hug me and want a photo taken with me as I am their guest from a foreign country.
The courtyard and the mosque are full, every bit of space is taken for prayers and yet there is no conflict despite the crowd. The level of respect of a person praying is such that despite the inconvenience of a woman praying in a passage way, people do not pass in front of her till she does the salaam to end the prayer.
I continue to be amazed at the manner of the sunnah displayed again and again by random people. Children of all ages are there and play without violence or conflict, it is the “Abe Sultan effect” nothing else………..
The night tarawih under the stars is indescribable, the Quran in the voice of the Turkish Qari would make one fall in love with the Quran, irrespective of what you believe, the focused composure of the women and the level of sharing is beyond what I have seen in any place.
There is only one jarring point when a young woman complains about Syrian refugee women taking their Turkish men……… and other women shush her and ask her to pray for the Syrians because they are in a bad condition.
I have left myself to my “naseep” as the Turks call it, to navigate the logistics and be accepting and happy with what I get…….. and I get the best from my accompanying friends and from the sea of the women of Ummah at Abe Sultan tonight to beg for Aafiya on this blessed Laylatul Qadr………..
The man offering us Tabeehs and giving my friend a piece of the cloth of Kaaba though he said he had saved it for the children, the café owner welcoming us to use his restroom even though we are not eating there, the guy selling a fruit cup putting extra hot chocolate on it for us. The ring shopkeeper welcoming us back, me a foreigner being made to feel welcome by everyone around me, my friends and I sitting on the bench and eating our snack at 2.30 am as hundreds of people flow into the courtyard from the street and are accommodated.
The birds are quietly perched on the edges of the dome.
It is the last third of the night and each person is racing to do good as suhoor time approaches, we find another place in the inner court yard to pray fajr. The thought crosses my mind that it would be nice to have something warm for suhoor but I don’t want to get up from my place . As I bite into my cold congealed cheese toast a woman comes and asks me if I would like this and hands me a long large wrapped packet of something, I open it and in it are 6 hot steaming pide (Turkish pizza) with cheese melting on the meat. I am stunned, happy and grateful, Allah has sent us warm suhoor.
We share our cookies and chocolate but not many women are interested as they are all reading the Quran.
The Fajr Adhan is called and ……….. as a new fast begins the night of Laylatul Qadr says goodbye, wraps its cloak and melts into the light of dawn…….
“ Unforgettable……….” Says my friend as we walk out of the mosque after the first rays of the morning sun penetrate the glass windows of the dome.