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Wednesday 12th August 2015
Finally, we come to the end of this amazing and beneficial trip.
The day started off in Mashhad with an early start at 2AM, because we had to make the most of our last opportunity to perform the Ziyarah of Imam Redha (as). As we made our spiritual connection stronger with the Imam, knowing that this was the final farewell brought tears to my eyes, and saddened the entire group. The last day is the most emotional day, as you will miss the special moments you had with the Imam, Bibi Masuma, other participants, and last but not least the awesome mentors. Inshallah the relationship we have formed will stay strong.
To cherish our last moments, instead of sleeping, we had a discussion with brother Yassir, Shabbarali and two other friends. The session flew by really quickly but on the plus side, since there weren't many of us present in the group discussion, we could ask any question we had very openly and it really emented our bond. The lesson I gained from the discussion was that if you have a doubt don’t be afraid to ask. The environment and the brotherhood that this trip has formed has allowed us to share our concerns freely with our mentors. Our bond now has become even stronger, and I feel I can really trust my mentors.
As the day progressed, I have to admit that Iran can be very confusing. I got lost twice but I found my way using the Haram of Imam Redha (as) as a guide. I went to touch the Zareeh of the Imam, which was very challenging due to the large number of visitors. As I reflect about my striving to touch the Zareeh, it was worth every second, because a spiritual connection has to be earned with the hard work it, everything won’t always be given to you. As the remaining time becomes shorter, as seconds fly by, I realised that soon, I’ll be home. This makes me feel sad, as I will miss all my peers and all the mentors and coordinators. I have made some great friends, had some incredible moments, and I would like to think that I’ve grown spiritually.
May Allah give us all the opportunity to visit these holy cities again. Ameen.
Written by: Sajjad Datoo, from Hujjat Stanmore, London
Bab al-Ilm participant
Tuesday 11th August 2015
In the name of Allah, the Merciful.
We started our day by going to the haram, for Fajr Namaz. After performing our prayers, we had a short Ziyarah at the Zareeh of Imam Ali Redha (as) led by Shaykh Amin. After the Ziyarah, we went back to the hotel and rested till Dhuhr time because we had stayed up all night.
After prayers and lunch, we went for a quick shopping, and then the whole group went to visit the graves of the ulama buried in the Haram. One of the scholars we visited was Allamah Taqi Jafari’s grave, who received a great amount of knowledge directly from Allah (swt) due to his love for the Ahlul Bayt. This shows us that the love of the Ahlul Bayt (as) can make us succeed in different issues of our lives.
We also visited the grave of Shaykh Bahaai, who was the main architect of Imam Ridha's shrine. There is an interesting and inspirational story related to the construction of the Haram. When it was nearly built and the last bricks were left to be laid, Shaykh Bahaai told the main person in charge of the construction to leave out a part of the wall near the main entrance door, he himself would come fix it after putting a hirz (like a type of enchantment) that would prevent non-shias to enter the holy shrine. However, the Imam came to the man in his dream and ordered him to complete the construction before Shaykh Bahaai came to fix the last part. This shows that the Imam wanted the holy place to be not only a sanctuary for the shias, but also a place of safety and fulfilments of prayers of all.
After the visits and Maghribain prayers, there was a lecture for the martyrdom of Imam Sadiq (as), in Farsi, and then Dua-e-Tawassul. We then concluded the program with Matam for Imam Hussain (as).
Written by: Khamisi Nyawa Ndoro from BMMK, Kenya
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Monday 10th August 2015
Another blessed days in Iran began, this one began in Mashhad. We left immediately towards Nishapoor and after a 2 hour long trip, we arrived at the location where the holy footprints of Imam Ar-Redha (a.s) are preserved. My heart pounded at the sight of the miracle that had occured here, and made this place as it is. To summarise, Imam Ar-Redha (a.s.) was searching for water, so he stood up on a large rock and all of a sudden water began to gush out from underneath the rock. The rock softened whilst he was standing on it, which formed his footprints.
After we had time to experience this holy phenomenon, we proceeded to the grave of Bibi Shatita to perform our Salaat. It can really soften a person’s heart, visiting the graves of such pious and religious individuals. I personally was lost in thought as to how I could become similar to these esteemed personalities. We had our moments at her Zareeh, then it was declared lunchtime.
We ate chelo kebabs and rice and our next eagerly anticipated destination was Imam Zadeh Mahruq. This was the place where the descendants of Imam Sajjad (a.s.) and Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s.) who stood up for Islam were buried. Once again, visiting personalities who lived a life of morality and with a sincere heart is like visiting a fountain of spirituality. Offering a 2 rakaat Ziyarat prayer and clinging to the Zareeh just helps you get closer.
After some time, we got on our bus again and headed for the shrine of Abu Salt (a.s.) He was a close companion of Imam Ar-Redha (a.s.) His title being, "the gate to Imam Ar-Redha (a.s.)." After an enlightening speech and eulogy/recitation about the shrine by our beloved Shaykh Ameen, we went inside to spend time to ask for the fulfillment of our needs. We headed back into the city where Imam Ar-Redha (a.s.) is buried, stopping along the way for Salaat. We walked back to the hotel where we only get to stay in for one more day, which then concluded the day.
Written by : Faris Kazmi Edmonton from Canada
Bab al-Ilm participant
Sunday 9th August 2015
I woke up in the late hours of the morning a little confused to where I was at first, but then a smile cracked my face. I realised I had just woken up in the holy city of Mashhad, in the presence of my 8th Imam, Imam Ali Redha (as). I quickly got out of bed and headed straight for the window to catch a glimpse of the holy shrine. As I scanned the city for a few seconds, all I saw was crowded streets and hotels all around. And then in the distance I saw it. The golden dome shining and emitting light to everything around it. The only thing that came to my mind at the moment was "assalamu alaika ya Imam Ali Redha wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh!"
After performing our prayers and eating lunch, we left our hotel to explore the streets filled with all different kinds of stores. After spending a few hours shopping, we came back ready to meet our Imam. All of us performed the necessary recommended actions of Ziyarah and then walked towards the Haram. I entered the gates mesmerized by what was in front of me, the grandness of the shrine, the architecture, the serene feeling, everything was just perfect. We found a space in the courtyard where we had a short speech by Syed Kaviani, whom we are greatly honoured to have accompanying us during this trip. Prepared to meet our Imam with the right mind set, we made our way inside along thousands of others; we walked into the main Zareeh room. The sight of my holy 8th Imam's shrine brought tears of joy into my eyes. The feeling was incomprehensible. The Imam had invited me and I was finally here to convey to him my salams in person. To be honest, I have always heard others talk about that certain feeling or connection they get when they go to these holy places. Today I can proudly tell you that I experienced the same feeling. I cannot explain this feeling to you, all I can say is that I pray that you receive that invitation from the Imam as well.
We performed our Ziyarah and 2 rakats prayer and then went back outside in the courtyard to perform our Maghrib prayer in congregation amongst thousands of others.
After namaz we visited Ayatullah Saafi Golpaygaani (the son-in-law of the marhum Ayatullah Golpaygaani), who is one of the marjas of our time and mashAllah he is 104 years old. It was a very humbling experience since he praised us for being Muslims in the west and maintaining our deen. He also explained to us that we were the ambassadors of Islam and the most important way for us to propagate the religion of Allah was through our actions. We then headed back to the hotel for dinner. This is the end of our first day in Mashhad and I'm now going upstairs to the terrace to enjoy some snacks and a healthy discussion with the boys. Khudahafiz!
Written by: Ali Khalfan from Toronto, Canada
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Saturday 8th August 2015
The day began after Fajr we began our departure from Qum to Tehran. After a satisfying breakfast and loading all the suitcases, we got in the bus with grieved hearts departing the holy city of Qum. My head was pressed against the window as I bid farewell to Bibi Masuma (as) whilst my soul was not ready to do so. I was just yearning for one last visit to Bibi's Holy Shrine. With tears in my eyes, I was already missing the presence of Bibi Masuma (as). I was already praying to Allah (swt) to allow me to come back once again. Although the hours we spent acquiring knowledge were treasurable, I felt like it was only a dime we had obtained from a mountain of gold, because we had spent hours whereas some have spent decades and are still thirsty to acquire more. I was leaving the city of treasures and the realisation brought me to tears of sorrow and regret that I couldn’t achieve more.
After a drive of around two hours, we were at the shrine of the esteemed Imam Khomeini, leader of the great Islamic revolution, and an inspiration to millions around the world today. As we sat next to his grave, I felt humbled in the presence of a man who changed an entire nation despite the immense tribulations and oppression he faced. This reminded me of the Holy Prophet's revolutionary change to Mecca, so my mind was brought to Medina, and I began weeping at the state of Jannatul Baqi today.
After visiting the leader, we began a tour of the Savak prison (the prison in which the Shah of Iran would torture those who opposed him. Many great personalities, including the current Leader of the Islamic revolution Ayatullah Khamenei, were taken there as prisoners). Although it may have given a few nightmares the following night, it really opened my mind to the reality of those who truly strived in the way of Allah (swt). My heart trembled every time we heard the way people were tortured and tears would flow down my cheeks as I imagined myself in that prison. For how long would I resist the torments for the sake of my Imam? The torture was honestly horrific, yet it inspired me how people went through such pain to uphold the truth.
The last event of the day was the flight from Tehran to Mashhad. How excited I was, yet also tearful that I was going to visit my eight Imam, one of the stars of guidance, the beacons of knowledge and the infallible leader. On the way, some of us who were siting close together were reciting poems of Imam Redha (as), preparing ourselves to meet him. We finally arrived around midnight, alhamdulillah!
Written by: Ali Akbar Dhewji from Hujjat Stanmore, London
Bab al-Ilm participant
Friday 7th August 2015
At the end of the day as I go over my schedule I realize how much has transpired in merely twenty four hours.
The whole group of boys, from all different ages, stayed awake throughout the night of Juma, for the sake of spending time with the Ahlulbayt (as). Despite the fact all of us were sleep deprived, none of us complained. This is due to the fact that we enjoyed reciting our duas and praying in close proximity to Bibi Masuma's (sa) majestic shrine.
For me this night was the highlight of this entire trip so far. I was able to fulfill my desire to seek repentance for my sins and ignorance to my Lord with the help of Bibi Masuma (sa). At the very peak of the night, the Haram was extremely peaceful and quiet. The shrine contained an indescribable, heavy aura which allowed me to fall in love with the Ahlulbayt (a.s.) like never before. That night unlocked my sincere desire to do ziyarat of the other Holy shrines in the future. When Fajr namaz was completed in the Haram, we all returned to our dorms and fell asleep.
After a few hours we had to prepare for our workshop by brother Miqdad on the topic of balance. The workshop explained how important maintaining a balance in life is and how success depends on it. We split our day into multiple parts. They were Islamic studies, worship, entertainment, social, studies/work, hygiene, community service, and eating. Brother Miqdad then told us how much time we should spend on each activity in order to achieve balance. After the very helpful workshop we prayed our Dhuhrain prayer, had lunch, and slept again in order to get through the day.
At five in the evening, we had the closing ceremony. I was shocked - I could not understand how quickly the two weeks had passed. It seems as if my time in Qum flashed right before my eyes. At the closing ceremony a couple of participants from both male and female sides gave brief, heartfelt speeches on their time in Qom. They talked about the spiritual experiences and fun they had had, right from the moment we landed in Tehran. Several of the organizers showed their appreciation to those who helped and planned the programs smoothly. Without these dedicated individuals there would have surely been disorder and chaos. At the very end of the closing ceremnony, all the participants and mentors received certificates as proof of passing the course.
As soon as the closing ceremony ended, we immediately left for the Haram to say our final duas and prayers in our farewell ziyarat. It was very emotional for all of us. I sat down holding the shrine with both my hands while many others passed by. By the grace of Allah and Bibi Masuma (sa) the people passed by me without disturbing or pushing me at all. I was in a certain corner of the Zareeh where the flow of the crowd had no effect on me. During that time I became so emotional that I did not want to leave at all. I was so depressed that I lost track of time. In the end, I was able to regain control of myself and my feelings.
Right before leaving my final request to Bibi Masuma (sa) and Allah (swt) was that I receive the opportunity to return to Qom in the future and pray once again next to my Lady (sa). Such an occasion is to be sought for it opens the heart of the believers.
Extremely exhausted and sad we returned back and packed our belongings so that we can be ready to leave after Fajr for Tehran. For me, today was the day where I became the most emotional, connected to my Lady (sa) the most, and is a day which I will never forget.
Written by: Shahraiz Khawari from Chicago
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Thursday 6th August
Today was our last day of classes, and I was a little disappointed because I had really benefited from the knowledgeable teachers.
Instead of our regular Ahkam class, a teacher from the Hawza taught us about friendship, how to build good friends and how to leave bad friendships. This class allowed me to look at my own life and to reflect at the friendships I have.
The next class was Akhlaq where we discussed honesty. I also learnt about the attributes that God’s favorite person possesses. Insha’Allah I will try to be more kind and friendly to other people because those are the qualities God loves most.
The final class was Aqaed. Our teacher Br. Muhammad Mahdi Musayyibi, who himself is a Hafiz of the Holy Quran, Nahjul Bhalagha and Sahifa Sajjadiya, brought in his friend who was also a Hafiz of these great books. After revising previous lessons, we tested his friend by reading a few words from a verse in the Holy Quran. Not only did he read the whole verse, he told us the Ayaat number, Surah, whether it’s Makki or Madani, how many Ayahs are there in the Surah, page number, translation of the ayat and he read the ayat in a melodic voice with perfect tajweed. My jaw dropped in awe of the Shaykh. He had learnt the whole Quran at the age of 6. Truly, the Quran is beautiful and miraculous!
We arrived at the Haram for Maghribain and Isha prayers, and then recited Dua Kumayl. This part of the night was the highlight of the trip. We asked Allah (swt) to forgive all our sins in this Dua, and when I looked around and saw everyone crying, it really helped me reflect on myself and on my deeds. Afterwards we read Ziarat-e-Jamiah Kabeera. The last part was especially beautiful, the reciter was excellent, and he kept pausing and reciting Masaib, helping me better connect with the Ahlulbayt (AS).
After it was over, the coffin of a person who had passed away was carried through the haram. Both men and women mourned this loss, and a crowd of men rushed to carry the coffin. It was very difficult due to the large and emotional crowd, but a few of us got to touch the coffin.
I remember a quote from Imam Ali (as) which Shaykh Nadir mentioned during the twilight session, that our aim should be that we enter this world as a baby, we are crying and our close ones are smiling at us, but when we die our close ones are crying whilst we are smiling. This made me look at myself and realise that I need to be ready for death and Barzakh.
The entire night was spent in the Haram, till Fajr, being engrossed in Ibadat, discussion and reflection. I also got the chance to stand by the Zareeh and speak personally to Bibi Masuma (sa). I benefited greatly from the night long session. I felt emotional - sad - because it feels like yesterday that I walked into Bibi Masuma (sa)’s Haram, but this was one of my last visits.
I will miss Qum a lot, but I am looking forward to meeting Imam Reza (as) in Mashhad. Insha’Allah all our Ziarah are accepted.
Written by: Muhammad Mehdi Walji from Chicago
Bab al-Ilm participant
Wednesday 5th August 2015
It’s fajr time and once again the beautiful sound of the Adhaan echoing off the walls rouses me from my deep sleep. Alhamdulillah, what a great start to the day!
Our first class today began with the definition of a weapon. Our lecturer motioned that dua is one of the most powerful weapons available to mankind. Each individual in the world has the ability to use it at their disposal however it will only be effective if we as Muslims are true to our faith and believe in Allah (swt) sincerely from the depth of our hearts.
After our afternoon prayers we geared up for swimming. Only a small number of us were attending as the rest were playing football, however we were in for a treat. Our mentors and organisers had given us the privilege of being in a VIP location. To our astonishment we had our own swimming pool, jacuzzi, steam room and warm shower massage. Alhamdulillah, what a blessing!
Whilst swimming we competed to see who could hold their breath under water for the longest. I was able to stay under for one minute and during that time I was struck by a moment of clarity. Life is extremely short; it can be said it is “the same amount of time as taking a long breath.” Our time in this world is limited, we must act quickly and elevate ourselves spiritually in order to get closer to Allah, a day will come when we will be in a situation where nothing and nobody will come to aid us. Only our deed with be left and they will either help us or work against us.
During the time in the swimming pool we were called over to the edge. There, to my amazement we were handed ice cream, Swiss rolls and hot tea. We were very lucky to be given so much!
After freshening up we hit the busy shopping bazaars of Qum. It is quite an experience! The majority of the time is taking up with bargaining whilst only the last 5 minutes of shopping is used to actually purchase the item. As sun began to set, it was time for the final prayers of the day. We began the walk towards the Haram of Sayyida Masuma(as).
Thereafter, our mentors informed us we would be having dinner with Syed Agha Kaviani. Whilst eating together at his home he asked us a very powerful question, "What is the most important question in your life?" We came to a conclusion with a general answer that applied to all of us, "How can we be successful?"
The answer was a question within itself which made me ponder until the early hours of the following morning after which I fell asleep.
Written by: Mohammed Govani from Peterborough, UK
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Tuesday 4th August 2015
Early in the morning, around 5AM, after Fajr, we travelled to Mount Khidhr. To be honest I didn’t want to go because I had a stomach ache and a sore throat, but I’m glad I went. It was worth it, because we held a reflection session on the mountain, and I thought about what my strengths and weaknesses are.
Shaykh Nadir showed us a different perspective. We stood midway up a mountain - which was a metaphor for death, Barzakh. The bottom was the world (life) and the top of the mountain represented the Hereafter. Shaykh requested us to look at the horizon and pretend that we were the dead people. From the perspective of a dead man, the people of the world seem to be engrossed in small, petty things that are unimportant once you die.
We spent a few minutes thinking about what the living people still think of you, and what you think about the living people.
We concluded that we should die before we die - this is a saying from our first Imam. I feel like we should really forget the worldly desires. Although I wasn’t feeling well, I felt a sense of satisfaction because this experience has changed the way I think about life, death and the Hereafter.
Later in the day we went to the Ansariyan bookstore. At the library I bought six very interesting books. The total cost was 900,000 rials and I thought ‘Yikes’ but I thought twice and knew that knowledge is more valuable than money. Buying books of knowledge will be worth it because books can guide us to the right path if we choose the correct sources.
After Maghribain prayers we listened to Dua Tawassul at Masjid-e-Jamkaran. I felt very spiritually uplifted because the dua was so beautiful. During the Dua I became very emotional because I was thinking how much I sin and I thought that I may even be the friend of Satan because of my many bad actions. However, after the Dua I felt tranquillity and felt like my sins were washed away. InshAllah our Duas and Tawba have been accepted. Ameen.
Overall the day was fantastic and I’m looking forward to the next few days.
Written by: Saad Khawari from Chicago
Bab al- Ilm participant
Monday 3rd August 2015
My day started off at around 2am when the cooling system in my room stopped working and we had to wait a while before the electrician could fix it. Many would have complained but I saw this as an opportunity to thank Allah (swt). Just like I learnt in one of my classes on the course, when you are faced with trials and tribulations, thank Allah (swt) for all the blessings that you have.
During the morning class, Shaykh Nadir Jaffer conducted a very interesting workshop on Prophetic Medicine and Medicine in Islam. The stories and remedies he gave us strengthened my faith in Islam and even more, his talk made me realise that Islam is not only a religion that we practice but it is a way of life. After lunch we had a debate with the fellow Madinah participants organised by our mentors. The topic was Fiqh rulings and their application in the West. The debate got really heated but it was very informative and made me think about whether I truly practice Islam or I let the negative ideologies of the West infiltrate my beliefs.
Later on in the evening we went for outside Ziyarat but our mentors were being very secretive about the destination. When we arrived at the place and the gates opened up, I saw a beautiful and magnificent Zareeh before me. At first I was very confused; thinking there may be another major Shrine in Qum which I didn’t know about. When the mentors told us this is the new Zareeh built for our 10th and 11th Holy Imams (as) in Samarra, tears of joy and sorrow filled my eyes because I was blessed with this once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Zareeh and carpets etc before they are all transported to Samarra; sorrow because the flashbacks of when the Holy Shrine was ruthlessly targeted by the enemies of the Ahlul Bayt (as) entered my mind.
As one of the Bab boys, Mohamed Jawad Habib, so eloquently put it "This was the best surprise and one I never expected".
Afterwards, we went to visit the house of Ayatullah Burujudi and Ayaytullah Golpaygani. When I saw how simple these great personalities lived their lives, it made me think about all the luxuries in my life that I take for granted and how unnecessary it all is.
I thought I was done for the day after I had my dinner and was ready to tuck in after a long and exciting day, however I was wrong. Somehow the mentors found out that my Islamic birthday is on 17th Shawwal and with today being the 17th, they surprised me with a delicious chocolate and caramel cake. I can't be more grateful towards them, they have truly been like my brothers throughout this whole course and have made my expectation a hundred times better. I want to end by thanking Allah (swt) for such an exciting and spiritually uplifting day.
Written by: Ali Manekia from Toronto, Canada
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Sunday 2nd August 2015
We started the day with the morning prayers, got some rest and then woke up for the breakfast. There was a race against time as we had to rush and quickly get our bags packed and get set for the Ali Sadr cave. The cave was quite cold as we entered and walked through the tunnels of huge rock and stone. Walking down the wet path, I started to ponder and reflect about God and His beautiful creations. In the cold temperature, we walked down to the edge of a large underground lake, and boarded a small boat to tour the cave.
As we proceeded through the cave, I was astonished with the size and types of rocks. As I looked at the beauty around me, I thought of Allah, the One who created all this, and how great He must be.
Spears of ice grow from the ceiling and ground. They grow very slowly, at about 1mm every 100 years. It must have taken millions of years to grow. Allah (swt) has set so many things in motion years and years in advance; the entire universe is such a complex creation.
Imagine Allah (swt) creates something so delicate and perfect and you realize that there is so much around you that we are not aware of. Like the saying goes, “greater the sea of knowledge, greater the shoreline of wonder.” In other words the more you know, the more you do not know. We spent about two hours inside the cave, enjoying the wonders of Allah (swt).
From there we set off on the seven hour drive to the Holy city of Qum. The bus ride was a lot of fun, spent in the company of people from many different backgrounds, but all of us with the same basic principles. It has been a wonderful trip so far – meeting and making friends with other fellow brothers in Islam. I have been very lucky to be part of the course and gain such an experience. InshAllah this will all strengthen my faith and allow me to get closer to Allah (swt).
“Soon we will show them our signs in the furthest regions of the Earth and in their own souls until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness??” Sura Fussilat verse 53.
Written by: Irfan Nanji from Kenya
Bab al- Ilm participant
Saturday 1st August 2015
After communicating with the Almighty during Subh prayers, we quickly packed for our weekend adventure to Hamadan. The journey took approximately 5 hours and as we arrived, the scenery was mesmerizing! We took a long walk where an extraordinary waterfall flowed in its magnificence. To me this signifies God's mercy upon us and how there's a constant flow of it as long as we are receptive. I cleared my thoughts and stepped into the waterfall letting the intensity overcome me just like God's existing and future blessings upon me. There was a clear culture change in Hamadan compared to The Holy city of Qum which really made me appreciate the spiritual atmosphere of Qum which we had just left.
We rode the cable cars to the top of the mountain where we were amazed by Allah's creation. We stood at the top of the mountain overlooking the city of Hamadan, thus reminding ourselves of God's magnificence and how insignificant we are compared to Him. As the time of Zohr approached we performed our wudhu from a stream of water and headed to a mosque on top of the mountain where we were welcomed with open arms from the local community. Even though the mosque was small and lacked resources they all had a smile on their faces and constantly recited Salawat after taking a few photos with us and asking for autographs. Thereafter, we found ourselves walking through the museum of the great Abu Ali Sina, a personality who revolutionised medicine in the 4th Hijra century.
Before coming to this course I had many questions; one of which being the proofs of God's existence. As we travelled from the museum to the final destination - a villa overlooking a valley to which the city was to the right of it, everything cleared up! This world is too perfect to be created by chance, so a greater eternal being must exist who is All Powerful. At the same time what He has created with ease, He can take away just as easily.
The Holy Qur'an 59:24 - "He is Allah the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner; His are the most excellent names; whatever is in the heavens and the earth glorify Him; and He is the Mighty, the Wise."
Written by: Brother Adam Govani from the London
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Friday 31st July 2015
Today we woke up for Fajr tired but enthusiastic, because we knew that today was the day of our 12th Imam (ajfs). We had slept quite late the previous night at around 12:30 am. We all prayed Fajr together in the prayer room of our accommodation and then began the recitation of Dua Nudba. The recitation was amazing, multiple people recited parts of this magnificent Dua, including myself. I really felt sad in my heart to know that I am not ready for our Imam. It also hurts to know that my Imam has been waiting for over 1000 years for us but we still haven’t improved. What hurts the most is to know that my sins and wrongdoings are acting like a curtain between me and my beloved Imam.
The atmosphere was amazing, everyone was concentrating on Imam Mahdi (ajfs), reciting with voices of true love for the Imam. I felt all our hearts were connected to the Imam.
Later on, after the completion of Dua Nudba, we all jumped into our beds and the next thing you know I was being awakened two hours later by my mentors. We only had 20 minutes to eat breakfast in the morning because we had to go to a seminar conducted by Br Ali Hemani on how Media has an impact on the subconscious mind. It was a really inspiring talk, he showed us an informative documentary which showed us how children and young teenagers are affected by the media and advertisements.
Br Mohammed Jafar commented: “It was important to know about this so that we can safeguard ourselves and remain on the right path”.
After the informative seminar, it was time to go to the Haram of Bibi Fatimah Ma’sooma (s.a) for Jumuah Namaaz. Amazingly, our organisers managed to get us to pray in the second line which was a truly blessed experience not only to be close to the Imam-e-Jamaat but also to be able to hear the Khutba of Jum'a. In the first khutba, the Imam talked about Imaan and Taqwa and in the second khutba, he spoke about the relationship between Prophet Muhammed s.a.w and his uncle Hamza. The atmosphere was amazing! Everyone in the prayer hall chanted together, shouting that they are ready for the Imam.
Inshallah, I pray to Allah (swt) to hasten the reappearance of our 12th Imam (ajfs).
The highlight of the day was when we climbed Mount Khidhr. This is the mountain where Prophet Khidhr used to pray and supplicate to his Lord. The weather was cool. Before we started our climb, we visited the graves of the ‘unkown shuhada’ – their bodies have not been identified. Their stories were really inspirational, and I hope I can too be at their level of dedication to Allah (swt). We then began our climb up the mountain.
When we reached the top I looked down and everything seemed so small. This made me think about how insignificant we are in front of our Lord. After the recitation of Dua Samaat and Namaaz, the mentors arranged for us to form a circle on the mountaintop and held a reflection session. During the session, we were made to close our eyes and think of Allah’s creations. Then we were asked to all look at the sky and talk to Allah (swt). During this time, I thought to myself while looking at the huge sky about how small I am compared to Allah who has created something as big as the universe and everything in it. It just made me feel low and it also made me feel that I need to try my best to repay Allah for everything he has granted us, even if we cannot ever actually repay Him. He is so Merciful, even though we are so sinful.
Insha'Allah we can peform actions from now on to only bring us closer to Allah (swt).
Written by: Ali Rashid from Dubai
Bab al-Ilm participant
Thursday 30th July 2015
Today we had a morning twilight session after Salatul Fajr at the holy shrine of Sayyida Masuma (sa). This took place at the graveyard known as Shaykhan, in which there are graves of many great personalities, such as Zakaria bin Adam (the Wasi of Imam Redha a.s), Mirza Qummi (one of the great scholars) and Mirza Jawad Agha Maliki Tabrizi (a celestial a'alim). Among the things we did at the Shaykhan graveyard was reflect on the fact that one day we will also be among the dead in m lonely graveyards such as these. This was a really eye opening experience for me and inspired me to make the most of every minute of every day of my life insha'Allah.
After a couple hours of rest our classes got underway. Aqaed class was about the necessity of certain trials and suffering in our lives. Ahkaam was related to how to make things Tahir in the case that it becomes Najis. In our Quranic Principles class, we spoke about how to better ourselves and prevent sins by having an outline for your day in the morning and performing accounting of the Nafs every night.
Everyone enjoyed the delicious chelo kebab kubideh that was prepared for us for lunch, after which we all rested and then headed to Dar az Zahra for a seminar on the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (ajfs). This seminar really opened my eyes to the depth of information we have about the Imam's (ajfs) arrival and we all really appreciated the effort Shaykh Khalfan put in presenting this all to us. To end off an already great day, we went to the Haram for Dua Kumayl which I have to say was recited in a beautiful and heart trembling manner. As our days remaining in Qum are now unfortunately numbered, we also made the most of reciting the Ziyarat of Bibi Masuma (sa).
Ali Govani from the UK mentioned: "Today's Quranic Principles class by Shaykh Khalfan was simply awesome. It really made me think about the benefits that daily self assessments can have."
Written by: Ali Ehsan from Sweden
Madinah al- Ilm participant
Wednesday 29th July 2015
It was 9:45am and we boys were sat anxiously in our seats to await the instructor of our class. Just like the past five days, our lessons were based on Ahkam, Akhlaq and Aqaid.
Firstly in Ahkham we reviewed the procedure of Tayammum. This was a key aspect as many of us were reminded as to when and under what circumstances Tayammum becomes obligatory. As our teacher finished his talk, we instantly sprung our hands up to ask various questions to perfect this fundamental part of Islam.
Secondly, everyone awaited Agha Shomali’s class, as we knew he would come up with his usual banter in relation to Raheem Sterling; teasing all the Liverpool fans in the class. We were enlightened as we realised the importance of forgiveness and especially forgiving our fellow human beings. We also learnt as to how much of an impact loyalty has to gaining respect of our peers.
With a short break consisting of refreshing mango juice, we were looking forward to our Aqaid class which was made up of debates proving prophecies and miracles of our Prophets, in particular Hazrat Suleyman a.s (in relation to the Queen of Sheba and Asif bin Barkhia).
Afterwards, all the boys headed out to shop for souvenirs and presents for our friends and families back home. Many of the boys bought rings, tasbeehs, khanzus and in my case I bought a keffiyeh (the traditional scarf Iranian men wear). I felt like royalty carrying a couple of million Iranian Rials around. However, this only translated to around forty pounds. Whilst dealing with the shopkeepers we indulged into large negotiations, it was a new experience for us.
We rushed to make it to Salaatul Jamaat in the Haram of Bibi Masuma (S.A) through the busy bazaar. Alhamdulillah we were blessed with another spiritual experience in Shabestane Imam Khomeini as the Jamaat included thousands of people. Most of us felt added contentment and peace in the presence of the Holy Lady (s.a).
The day topped off with dinner at a traditional Esfahani restaurant, where instead of tables and chairs we were seated on luxurious Iranian carpets and cushions. We were given ‘Biryani’, Iranian style which was pretty similar to Khoja style biryani besides the fact that there was no masala or rice; instead it was soft keema and naan. Finally, we all enjoyed a dosage of Iranian ‘chai’. I can honestly say that just after a week of this camp, all the brothers have really bonded and we already feel like a big family!
Written by: Muhammad Abbas Hussein from Stanmore, London
Bab al-Ilm participant
Tuesday 28th July 2015
The day proceeded with Fajr prayers and breakfast as usual.
The classes today were quite inspiring and educational. It was interesting to learn that the rivers and gardens in Jannah are not true representations, but merely an indication. We all found it essential to refresh our memory and learn about common rulings related to Salaat and Wudhu. It was also inspiring to learn the teachings of the Holy Quran – that all humans are moving towards absolute perfection, which is Allah (swt). These teachings will inshAllah be very beneficial in cementing our faith, and performing our obligations.
Everyone was glad to play football in the evening which was a brilliant bonding exercise, brought everyone together, and was a nice break that really helped refresh everyone.
The highlight of the day – and for me the highlight of the course so far – was going to Masjid-e-Jamkaran for Maghribain prayers and Dua e Tawassul.
There was an atmosphere there to say the least, a special something. The entire mosque felt spiritually charged. Below is a reflection of my experience.
We are sitting in a blessed mosque, and somewhere among us, among the thousands of people in there, is the Imam of our time (afs). It is uplifting that we are praying our Salaat in the presence of our Imam. However, it is also incredibly saddening, that although he is present, we cannot recognise him.
It hits home that we need our Imam, that deep within us, we are desperate for him, that we miss him, we want to see his face. The environment is such that the entire group was serious; everyone realised the opportunity we were presented with, to pray in the same Jamaat as our Imam (afs).
After the Maghribain prayers, Dua-e-Tawassul started. The reciter spoke in Farsi, described the masaib of Lady Fatema Zahra (as), Imam Husain (as) and our longing for the 12th Imam (ajfs). Even though I don’t understand Farsi, the manner in which the recitation was performed, the environment… I felt connected to the Imams (ajfs). Emotions are stirred, a sense of spiritual awakening rose within each one of us.
InshAllah, all our Hajaat are fulfilled, and our actions are accepted, ameen.
Nobody wanted to leave after the Dua. It was difficult to place one foot in front of the other on the way out, knowing that in the mosque you are leaving behind, is one lonely holy personality, waiting for us to better ourselves, waiting until such time that we are ready, so he may come out of occultation.
May Allah (swt) hasten the reappearance of our Imam, and help us be one of our Imam’s soldiers – ameen.
Written by: Mohamed from Oman
Monday 27th July 2015
The day started at 4am and we left our accommodation early today, because as loyal followers of the Ahlulbayt (as) we wanted to pray Fajr at the Haram of Bibi Masuma (as). As I entered the Haram, a sense of spirituality arose in my soul. Hence, it allowed me to recite my Salat in tranquillity.
As soon as I looked upon the Shrine of Bibi Masuma (as), all I could feel was the pain she went through in Saweh. All I could hear were the cries of her beloved companions as they fought valiantly against the enemies of the Ahlulbayt (as). As soon as I approached the Holy Shrine, I could only imagine what the Holy Lady (as) must have gone through when she was poisoned, according to some narrations.
Afterwards we had the opportunity to listen to a great lecture by Shaykh Ali Azim Shirazi. His lecture was about the concept of Niyyat, and the importance and benefit of having a good Niyyat at all times.
Our teacher Syed Ali Aqib Jaffery taught us Ahkam. We learnt about spiritual cleansing; that is, wudhu and ghusl. He elaborated on how our spirit becomes impure by touching a dead body, sleeping etc.
Our next class was Akhlaq. We had a quiz about honesty and to see if we are good at telling if people lie or not. Unfortunately, we lost! The final class was Aqaid, whereby we had an interactive debate on the existence of Allah (swt).
After performing jamaat prayers and having lunch, we had some free time whereby we had a group discussion about the importance of time management in our busy schedules.
At about 5pm we left for outside Ziyarat. We started at Bayt al Noor, which was where Bibi Masuma (as) spent her last few days, before her sad demise. Then we visited Gulzare Shuhada, which means the rose garden of the martyrs. There is a small Shrine where an Imam Zadeh – Ali ibn Jafer – is buried.
Finally, we visited Chehel Akhtaran. This is one of the most important graveyards in Qum and literally translates to forty stars – symbolising forty Imamzadehs buried therein.
In the night, after Mahgribain prayers, we had an interesting group discussion with Shaykh Safiullah about how we should strive to become a true human being, detach ourselves from animalistic desires and prepare for our 12th Holy Imam (afs).
Written by: Abbas Farrukh from London
Bab al-Ilm participant
Sunday 26th July 2015
Our morning started off with all my roommates and I waking up to pray Salatul Fajr. After we all completed our Salaat, we got a bit more rest until breakfast time. The participants have been enjoying the variety of breakfast options, such as many different cereals, naan with Iranian Nutella/honey (delicious!), boiled eggs and soothing tea. Our first class was Aqaed where we tried to prove the Oneness of Allah (swt) by deduction. The instructor, Agha Javad Shomali, is always very enthusiastic and keeps the discussions open and interesting. In Ahkam we learnt about the roles of a Faqih and the concept of following rulings. Thereafter, we had our Quranic Principles class and learnt about the general principle of Shukr from a verse in the Holy Quran.
In the afternoon, we went to an incredible indoor swimming pool, from what I heard the best swimming pool in Qum! We were spoilt with a sauna, steam room, hot tub and also a cold tub.
The next exciting activity on the schedule was Maghribain salaat at the Haram of Lady Masuma (sa) and we had some free time to perform our Ziyarat and spend some time with this Holy Lady, who has such a great position.
When I entered the Zareeh, I felt a sense of awe and peace, as well as a sense of serenity and safety. A feeling which I've only previously felt in Karbala and Najaf. We then went out for dinner at a fast food place which had very tasty food.
On the bus ride back home we all had a great bonding session, with fellow participants reciting nawhas, matam and duas. It was really a memorable moment on the trip for me. When we got back to the accommodation, we celebrated one of the brothers' birthday (Abbas from London) with cake and treats. However before that we all recited a prayer for one another in a group setting. We then decided to play a game with the boys in the room before eventually having our lights out.
Written by Mahdi Hassanali from Allentown, U.S.A
Madinah al-Ilm participant
Saturday 25th July 2015
The day commenced with Salaat-ul-Fajr after which we rested until breakfast. I was extremely exhilarated to start our first class and was really looking forward to getting taught by a Hafiz of the Holy Quran, Nahjul Balagha and Sahifa Sajjadiya. During the Ahkham class we learnt about the laws in Islam whereas in Akhlaq we learnt about ethics and different types of behaviours in Islam. We also had Aqaid lesson where we learnt about the existence of Allah (swt). After that class I really felt inspired and touched. Afterwards we proceeded to pray Salatul Dhuhrain. There was a moving Masaeb being recited in Farsi to commemorate the occasion of Yaum e Gham which I can truly say touched all of our hearts.
In the afternoon we visited the library of Ayatullah Marashi Najafi. I felt encouraged to learn more about his life once I learnt about his stories.
Moreover, we then visited Imam Khomeini’s house where I contemplated to myself that even though he was a leader and at the same time an Imam, he lived a very simple life compared to others. It really made me reflect on what I would do if I were in his position.
Additionally, we then went to Bibi Masuma’s Haram. I really felt the spiritual connection and bond in my heart and this visit to the haram made me reflect about myself.
Finally, after Isha Namaaz we headed towards Dar ul Zahra since today marked the day of the destruction of the shrines at Janatul Baqi. There we had a majlis about the Noor of Allah (swt). I would like to share some inspiring quotesfrim fellow participants.
Ali Rashid said, “This was one of the most thrilling days I have ever had.”
Ali Khalfan said relating to the man who was once covered in sin, “It’s very inspirational to learn about how an ordinary person can achieve Allah’s pleasure from sincere love of the Ahlulbayt (a.s) and in particular Aba Abdillah (a.s)
Written by: Hussein Ramzan
Madinah and Bab Course 2015 participant
Friday 24th July 2015
Alhamdulillah today was a really packed day. We woke up early in the morning and strolled over to Masjid e Jamkaran to pray Namaaz e Shab followed by Salaatul Fajr. We had a discussion about his excellency Imam e Zamana (ajfs) where brother Amin touched upon topics such as self-readiness for the Awaited Mahdi (atfs) and reasons for his occultation and him not being amongst us.
After having a hearty breakfast, and resting a bit, we got ready to go for our first Jum'ah prayers at the Haram where we were privileged to get a VIP place in the 3rd row behind the Imam and amongst the Ulama.
The 1st sermon was about Ethics of Family Life which was followed by current affairs.
When we got back from the Haram of Bibi Masuma (sa) we ate lunch together and tried to catch up on some rest.
At Maghrib time, we eagerly looked forward to go to Masjid e Jamkaran. Later, we sat for a friendly gathering and Brother Imran Damani gave us a talk about some verses of the Holy Quran. To top of the great day, therr was dinner from the fast food joint, Bama which we had in the compound garden of our residence complex and I can truly say this was a day I really enjoyed.
Written by: Taha Ali Zulfiqar from Muscat, Oman
Madinah Al-Ilm participant
Thursday 23rd July 2015
It was officially the first day of this spiritual and beneficial Bab al-Ilm course. Participants from the US and Canada had arrived, followed by the Africa Federation participants. We woke up for our morning prayers at about 4:30am and later on had breakfast. All the participants sat together over breakfast and starting to introduce themselves. We later all headed towards the prayer room for our Dhuhrain prayers which was an amazing feeling praying together with people from all over the world as it demonstrated that we are all united.
After having a traditional Iranian lunch, we prepared for the opening ceremony in which Shaykh Nadir Jaffer gave an inspirational and powerful speech. The speech allowed all the participants to understand the true purpose and goal of this course. We made our way to the Harram of Bibi Ma’suma-e-Qum to carry out our first ziyarat. We made sure that we carried out all the etiquettes of the ziyarat correctly as we knew this would allow us to get closer to Allah (swt) and the Ahlulbayt (as). As it was Thursday night, Alhamdulillah we were blessed with the beautiful recitation of Dua Kumail which built a strong connection between us and Allah (swt). Personally, I enjoyed the first day of this course and I believe that this experience will become better as the days go by inshAllah.
Written By: Mahdi Hemraj
Madinah and Bab Course 2015 participant
Entering into the Holy City of Qum and feeling a blast of spirituality and peace. Home-coming and contentment.
Waking up to the melody of the beautiful Munajaat of Imam Ali (a.s.) followed by the Adhaan of Fajr.
Witnessing a glorious sunrise while listening to Dua e Ahad. Praying Salaat in Jam'ah.
Witnessing the gorgeous and peaceful gardens of Jamia-tuz Zahra as night softly falls and moonlight brightens the night around.
Updated 8 January 2014
Whilst writing this testimonial, all those memories, feelings, emotions came flooding back. The Madinah & Bab 2013 Summer Course was absolutely phenomenal. Not a day has gone by since I said my farewell to my Imam (as) and Hazrat-e-Ma’suma that I have not remembered them, and their limitless favours on me.