There I was, staring at the Holy Dhareeh from a distance. Suddenly, I could feel my heart was lighter, my mood happier, and my soul purer. It was as if Imam Ar-Redha himself had come to welcome me, to remove my sorrows, to allow me to enter into the Haram. As eager as I was to rush inside and get as close as possible to Imam Ar-Redha’s Shrine as I could, I stood outside for a while; contemplating.
Saturday 5th August 2017 - Day 20
Today we attended the closing ceremony. Mentees from both the boys and girls side passed their gratitude to The World Federation for organising such a wonderful trip. Our mentors also gave speeches, describing their experiences of caring for us. And how can I forget our scholars... Even on the last day, they continued to motivate us.
Before the ceremony was concluded, we were awarded certificates recognising our journey on this course. It's incredible how throughout the course I have been continually inspired.
My heart broke when we went to the Haram for our final Ziyarah. It's so sad to leave such an amazing place, surrounded by inspirations.
Finally, we departed to Tehran, soon to be separating from one another to catch our flights home!
Written by: Mwanasiti Mwachitsami, Madinah tul Ilm
Friday 4th August 2017 - Day 19
The day started with a rush of excitement as we all woke up early, scrambling to get ready for the water park! Time couldn't pass by any slower as we all waited, shivering in anticipation. Finally, the clock struck 10 and we raced to the bus, eager to make the most out of the trip. But once we were inside the water park, feelings changed. Stomachs dropped and hearts jumped into throats as anticipation turned to apprehension. Just one glance at the gargantuan structures had us ready to run back. Somehow we steeled our nerves and began climbing the stairs to where our doom awaited us. From the top, the drop looked even more terrifying and no one was willing to be the first to sacrifice themselves.
After a lot of teasing from the other water park goers, we begrudgingly agreed to take the plunge and WOW!
Exhilaration replaced anxiety before we had even turned the first corner. It was all screams and swerves until the ride ended with a big splash. Trembling with adrenaline, we couldn't help but want to go again and again and again, and so we did. The next 3 hours were a blur of rushing from one side of the park to the other, desperate to try each and every slide, after which we took a break for Namaaz and lunch before returning to the water once again.
Sadly, we had to leave about an hour after that. Grumbling under our breaths, we trudged back to the changing rooms and filed onto the bus, ready to be whisked away to our next destination - a meeting with the Grand Ayatullah Lutfullah Saafi Gulpaygani!
He welcomed us warmly, addressing us with enviable kindness and generosity. Unfortunately, the meeting was rather short and before long it was time for us to make our way to the Haram of Imam Ridha (as) for Maghribain and afterward we walked back to the hotel for our last ever group meeting.
During the meeting, the mentors surprised us with beautiful Tasbeehs as tokens of remembrance. Hugs were shared and tears were shed and too soon the group had to split up so that we could all pack our bags for the journey back home.
Today was a roller coaster ride of emotions; a day we will definitely remember spent with people we will never forget.
Written by: Aatiqa Alidina, Tanzania
Thursday 3rd August – Day 18
Today marks the night of the Khushali of Imam Ridha (as), and it's like this whole city is doing the Tasbeeh of Allah in his honor. From strangers exchanging flowers on his streets to every inch of darkness eliminated by ropes of color. Mashhad, today you are the city of lights!
We got the privilege of being invited for dinner today at the restaurant of Imam Ridha's holy shrine, and as soon as you come out there are crowds of people asking for your leftovers, like blind lovers yearning for anything their beloved has blessed. The same birds doing Tawaf of his shrine all night, apparently wanting to live less than we do. An epidemic of goose bumps as an ummah of lovers come together in Salwaat. A theatre performance acting out stories of Imam Hassan's life, to remind us how we got here. To remind us who's children we are. The night sky roaring with fireworks. There's a bird with clipped wings, and a little boy is pushing it to fly and each time, it gets higher and higher before it gives in. It's flying now. Sajdah today feels like it's holding the world together. There's a new definition to homecoming as you forget the list of wishes you had, as you realise the only thing you ever needed, the only thing you ever really wanted, was Him.
And if you look carefully enough, you can almost hear Him - I am with you, I never left.
Shaykh Nadir says the Haram of Allah is your heart. It makes sense now. People say home is where the heart is, I think we're leaving ours in Mashhad.
Happy birthday, Imam Ridha, you're making us say Alhamdulillah
Written By: Fatima Zahra Naqvi, Zainab Naqvi, Zameenah Damji (Madinah)
Tuesday 1st August - Day 16
Today we went on a tour of the Haram of our 8th Holy Imam (as) and were lucky enough to be accompanied by Shaykh Nadir and Agha Amin. There are a number of great scholars who are buried within the Haram, such as, Shaykh Mujtahidi, Shaykh Hur Al-Amili, Shaykh Behai, Shaykh Tabarsi, etc.
Shaykh Bahai was the incredible person behind the design of the original Haram of Imam al-Ridha (as).
What hit me was when Shaykh Nadir spoke about the connection of Shaykh Hur Al-Amili and Hazrat Hur (as). Every day we are making the decision between heaven and hell in our hearts. My heart skipped a beat when I realised with every decision we have the choice of getting close to Allah (swt) or further away.
We ended the day with Dua Tawassul in front of the golden dome. I felt emotionally and spiritually connected to each Imam as I asked them to intercede for me. At the end of the Dua, I realised it was my first and last Tuesday in the holy city of Mashhad. With a heavy heart, I left the Haram making a resolution to make the last few days in the Holy city worth it! I would like to leave Mashhad having gained something, not just with my Hajaat, but also something that I can intergrade into my everyday life as a Muslim.
Written by: Zehra Ali Khan, Madinah al-Ilm
Monday 31st July 2017 - Day 15
The first rays of sunlight peeked through the red curtains whilst the trains rocky motion shook us awake!
After an Iranian breakfast of 'naan' and tea, we felt refreshed and charged for the day.
After arriving at the hotel in Mashhad, we rested sometime before we started preparing ourselves to visit the Haram.
The spiritual excitement brought goose bumps all over our body; Shaykh Ismail and Sister Raadhiya gave us a small talk respectively which prepared us better for our visit to the eight Holy Imam's Shrine...
There were thousands of souls scattered all around the Haram of Imam Ridha (as), all praying, lamenting and asking for their needs; like all the cries reaching heaven.
We were waiting to see a glimpse of the golden dome and when that moment arrived, tears welled up in our eyes and rolled down our cheeks. We felt like Imam (as) had replied to our Salaam.
Words aren't enough to describe how beautiful and satisfying it was to pray Maghreb prayers in Jamaat in the courtyard of Imam-e-Ra'uf (as)'s Haram with full connection and love towards him.
After a soothing and heartfelt visit, we walked back to our hotel and enjoyed a hearty meal of spaghetti for dinner, after which we had an enlightening talk with Sister Raadhiya before going our separate ways to sleep, some of us preparing to go Haram for Salaatul Fajr in a few hours.
Written by: Mehjabeen Remtula and Mahdiyya Rashid - Bab Ulm Ilm
Sunday 30th August-2017 - Day 14
Our morning started at Fajr when we went to the Haram to pray our final prayer in congregation and complete our Ziyarah in Qom. We all felt an overwhelming surge of emotions but at the same time, we felt elated as we knew our Imam was calling us to him.
Soon, we made our way to the capital city "Tehran" and after somewhat riveting coach journey, we found ourselves at Behesht-e Zahra (SA). We were all shocked to observe the number of lives lost during the war, but it also hit us when we saw the number of young children who sacrificed their lives in the name of Islam and it really made us think about how the life we are living is a gift sent by Allah.
We were left with a deep feeling of gratitude on realising the great sacrifices and dedication these martyrs made for Islam.
We then entered Imam Khomeini's shrine where we paid our respects to him and observed the intricacy and beauty of the walls and ceilings.
Time flew by and we found ourselves at Tehran rail-station where we were all anticipating our journey to Mashhad!
Written by: Dania Ali and Asiyah Jessa
Saturday 29th July 2017 – Day 13
Today we had an early start with Fajr Salah, followed by a twilight session at Mount Khidr. We all piled into the bus, anticipating what was to come! Once we had arrived, we gathered in the mausoleum to recite Du'a Ahad; a truly spiritually uplifting experience. We then began the session with Shaykh Nadir on meditation! After a short presentation, we split up to reflect on the divine names "Al-Muh'yee" and "Al- Mumeet".
Personally, the first sensation we felt was regret! Looking over the city of Qom, we instantly realised that we are so engrossed into worldly and materialistic things that when it comes to the point of leaving it all behind, it all comes into perspective and we see that we've been so obsessed with this physical world that we just haven't done enough to reach our goal for our hereafter. The strength of the regret left such an impact that we were still thinking about it as we left Mount Khidr.
After we got back, we rushed to our beds and did not move for a good few hours until our mentors woke us up.
In our lesson with Shaykh Ismail, we discussed different strategies for dealing with Islamophobia, a lesson which we found practical and necessary for the world we live in today. Next was our final lesson on existential questions and before long, classes came to an end. We thoroughly enjoyed the lessons and have gained a lot of knowledge from the teachers that we have had the honor of learning from.
After the lessons, there was a quick race to get to the mosque for Salah, after which we greeted the bus again. We then proceeded to the Haram to get a tour of the most important areas. It was very enlightening to get an insight on the history of the Haram. We also got to visit some of the most spiritual and educated Ulama who are buried there such as Allamah Tabatabai, Ayatullah Bahjat, Ayatullah Gulpaygani, Shaheed Murtadha Mutahhari and much more. We then moved outside of the Haram to the Shaykhan graveyard and soon after that, we headed to the Ansariyan bookshop.
Walking into the book shop was very inspiring and refreshing as it had a big variety of books written by some of the world's most leading scholars, with a wide range of books in different languages. We watched the excitement that filled everyone up as we were all waiting in line to pay for our books. No one left the shop empty handed.
The day slowly wrapped up as we headed back to Jamia for our final night in the holy city of Qom. Inshallah, we will all get the opportunity to be called back.
Written by: Nyla Dewji and Maryam Virani
Thursday 27th July, Day 11
The 27th of July started like any other day, classes started at 10 am, the first of which being Ladies Jurisprudential issues.
The best quality about classes at this camp is that they are all amazing and are some of the most inspirational factors here at Bab-Ul-Ilm. For instance, in this class with Sister Hanna we talk and learn about Women in Islam and what they represent. In Sister Hanna's words "the women are the manifestation of the beautiful qualities of Allah." Her class is a wonderful chance to explore topics of interest in more depth, and therefore we make the most of each lesson, desperate to not take this opportunity for granted.
The following class was about the material and spiritual world, and the balance between them. It struck us that we have been focusing on just one or the other, but we have to look at both to have a healthy lifestyle. We often view it as a scale that tips one way that we have to balance throughout our lives but in reality, life is more like a river. The rushing water on the surface is like materialism, fast and fleeting, whereas the cooler, more tranquil waters that flow along the river bed represent the spiritual aspects of our lives. While the two glasses of water can be distinguished from each other, they cannot truly be separated, and the same is true for our lives as well.
After Salaat, we were very blessed to go to Imam Khomeini (ra)'s house, where he spent most of his life. As we got to know about him and his way of life, respect for his character and personality grew within us. Unfortunately, we could only stay for an hour before we went to visit the 40 stars and do their Ziyarat. Just being next to the direct descendent of Imam Al-Jawaad (as) sent shivers down our spine.
At 8:30 pm, we went to the Haram of Hazrat Ma'sooma (SA) to pray Maghrib and we were lucky enough to stay for Dua -e- Kumayl. The voice of the reciter was so pure and mellifluous that we felt morose when it was forced to come to an end.
After the Dua we returned to Jamia for the night, still electric from the spiritually uplifting experience the day provided, and yet we were still anticipating what more was to come the following day.
Written by: Zainab Jagani, Nairobi Kenya and Fatima Mihaljerie, Bosnia
Wednesday 26th August 2017 - Day 10
From today's classes, I found Shaykh Ismail's session on contemplating the Holy Qur'an most insightful and relevant, especially as we could draw links between this and the previous class we had on the qualities of 'Ibad ar-Rahmaan'.
I took the opportunity of the time we had at the Haraam in the evening to try out some of the practical tips he taught us.
Reflecting on a few verses of Surah Al-Hadid, I found that the atmosphere of the Haram enhanced my experience and I hope to carry the inspiration from this blessed place with me as I continue my journey into the Qur'an.
Written by: By Fatima Manji - Madinah
Tuesday 25th July 2017 - Day 9
Today was a tiring yet exciting day as it started with a trip to the Haram for Fajr Salah which is definitely an amazing experience for us to be part of, as we acknowledge people rushing for Jama'at prayer, the beautiful sky and of course the Zareeh of Bibi Ma'sooma. We then had a twilight session in the Haram where we had Sister Asma Sultan talk to us about divine Love. This definitely strengthened our bond with Allah because she spoke about how one has to build a connection with Allah and how you start creating that Love. After that, we continued with our normal daily routine which consisted of lessons, prayers, lunch then Qur'an class.
In the evening we had a talk by Sister Salma which was about the relationship between us and Imam e Zamana (atfs) and the virtues of going to Jamkaran mosque. This was well placed because straight after we headed there! It was amazing to see the sun set at the beautiful mosque and pray Maghribain Salat under the open sky. We then recited Du'a Tawassul seeking intercession from the 14 Ma'sumeen (AS). Seeing the unity made us feel inspired and spiritually uplifted. Unfortunately, this was the last time we were able to go to Jamkaran in this trip. InshAllah we will get another opportunity to go again.
Written By: Maryam Merali and Zainab Jeraj
Monday 24th July 2017 - Day 8
We were all so happy to be back to the place we now all call home (Jamia al-Zahra) and continuing with our lessons, which are so crucial for our development.
Today, one of our lessons was focused on Islamic Anger Management and the other focused on the meaning of the word الرحمن - The All-Merciful; Allah (swt) is constantly sending His Mercy on us, even when punishing He is showing Mercy.
As a treat from our mentors (they are the best!), we got to swimming today. Afterward, we felt so light and refreshed which gave us the strength to keep smiling for the rest of the day :)
In the evening we spent time in the Haram of Bibi Ma'sooma (sa). Spending time there, reciting Duas, reading the Qur'an brings a special joy to my heart, but doing all of that on the night of her Wiladat was incredible. Peace, joy, excitement, sadness...feelings that come all at once, and all because of Allah (swt)'s Mercy. Alhamdulillah!
Written by: Zejneb Basarik - Madinah
Sunday 24th July 2017 - Day 7
Day 2 of Hamadan
Notwithstanding the long night, we were all up early in anticipation for the day ahead. After a hefty breakfast, we were loaded into the bus to be shipped off to the first destination - the town of Ali Sadr.
There was a hum of excitement in the air as we took a cable car to the mountain top. While initially, the magnanimous height was daunting, the resulting views completely obliterated any fear whatsoever. Rolling hills danced along the horizon, and somehow after we alighted from the cable cars, the view from the mountain itself was even more picturesque. Of course, we all spent a good few minutes snapping pictures and enjoying the mountain air. While upon the mountain top, we were treated to an anecdote regarding how spring meets the mountains. It was said that during spring a meteorological phenomenon occurs, where one bank of the river on the mountain would be littered with snow, and on the other grass would blanket the earth.
As we ambled along the mountain top, the organizers treated us to a surprise - horse riding! Between the majestic horses and the exhilaration of the ride, the experience was simply incredible, but the fun didn't end there. We took a cable car back down and went to visit the waterfalls that were nestled alongside the mountains. The thronging crowds and intense heat couldn't even touch the beauty of the falls. Photos were taken and snacks were eaten, and before long it was time for Dhuhr.
After Salaat, we were filed onto the bus again to visit the next and last destination of the day. The mentors kept it a secret but appeased us with saffron ice cream so we would stop badgering them. After an hour or so we arrived at the caves of Ali Sadr, allegedly one of the largest water caves on earth! Because they were water caves, the main mode of transportation through them was by boat, which was an experience on its own. The ride was relaxing, yet refreshing, and was definitely cool - literally! Regardless of the temperature outside, the caves will always stay between 12 and 14 degrees. Subhan'Allah!
Sadly, after we left the caves we had to bid Hamadan farewell and return to Qom, where upon arrival we ate dinner and promptly fell asleep.
Written by: Ahdra Merali (Kenya)
Saturday 23rd July 2017 - Day 6
Today we set out to go to Hamadan from Qom where we visited some very interesting places including the natural history museum.
It was a nice break from classes and reminded me of the intricacy of Allah (swt)'s creation.
The life and achievements of Bu Ali Sina also struck me with awe. He was able to study Medicine, Physics, Philosophy and so much more by the age of 18.
He was even able to continue writing books during his imprisonment.
We really can do anything!
We need to work and strive hard. The power of Knowledge is beyond this materialistic world.
Finally, late at night, we had the opportunity to climb up to the highest point of Hamadan and found a view like no other, again reminding me of the beauty of Allah's creation. It was a perfect place for self-reflection which I really enjoyed.
Hamadan was definitely a place I will never forget and would love to return one-day InshaALLAH
Written by: By Ridhae Fatima Sheikh.
Friday 21st July 2017 - Day 5
Throughout the week, we have taken part in a variety of exciting and spiritual events. One in particular that we thoroughly enjoyed was watching the movie based on Prophet Muhammad's (SAW) life until he was at the age of 7.
The following day we went on a tour to see where the film was set. It honestly felt amazing and we felt as if the scenery was realistic as the agriculture was very accurate, almost feeling like we were in Makkah and Madina and back in those times.
Climbing Mount Khidr was truly an overwhelming experience to remember; despite the journey being steep and challenging. However, the destination was worth the sweat, as we got to witness a gorgeous sunset as well as the whole city of Qum.
Also, today we went back to the Haram of Bibi Ma'sooma (SA) and we witnessed her birth anniversary and it was so heartwarming as well as a great privilege and honor to be in the congregation with thousands of Shias around her!
Written by: Tabarak al- Murshidi & Ta'theer Gulamhussein
Thursday 20th July 2017 - Day 4
After watching yesterday's movie about the early years of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh) life, today we had the chance to visit the movie set of the Holy Prophet's (pbuh) home towns, Makka and Medina.
With the brick bath tubs, the open floor houses and the dust floating in the streams of sunlight, the set conveys the simplicity of the lifestyle. It drags down to earth a generation that was raised constantly around iPhone ringtones and WhatsApp notifications.
This evening we paid our respects to Bibi Ma'sooma (as) and sat in the courtyard of the Haram for Dua Kumayl. Sitting there, under the sky, enveloped by the embrace of Dua, there is a stillness that comes to you knowing that we were created to connect with our Lord. The sole propose of praising Him in this Holy city, we felt limitless.
Written by: Zainab Rahim and Mahtab Manekia (Madinah)
Wednesday 19th July 2017 - Day 3
Despite the late night, some of us went to the Haram of Bibi Ma'sooma (as) for Fajr prayers. Knowing that we are at such a blessed place while the rest of the world sleeps is a blissful feeling.
We then had classes with our very knowledgeable lecturers and the day continued following a regular schedule.
After Quran class, we were going to watch a 3-hour movie at the biggest cinema hall!
It was a movie on the Holy Prophet's (s.a.w)'s life before he declared his prophethood. The movie depicted a lot of details about the Holy Prophet's early age, including how Bibi Aaminah [as] had to sacrifice spending time with the Holy Prophet and how in the early age Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w) had begun his responsibilities by being the perfect role model which made the locals realise he was the Prophet mentioned in the Bible.
By the end of the movie, we all felt a lot more connected to our Prophet because knowing and learning the facts of his life and watching a movie depicting those facts have different effects, the latter resonating more within us.
We ended the day with a heartfelt Majlis for our 6th Holy Imam, Ja'far Al-Sadiq (as)'s Wafaat recited by Shaykh Ismail which was followed by a hot meal.
We returned back to Jamia Al-Zahra feeling enlightened, excited for what the next day has in store.
Written by: Zainab Jagani (Kenya) and Fatema Lalji (Tanzania) - Bab
Tuesday 18th July 2017 – Day 2
Our aim when coming on this journey was to find that connection with Allah through Ziyarah of the Holy personalities.
Earlier in the day, we discussed how maybe there would be a slow start gaining that emotional/Spiritual connection however just entering Jamkaran and feeling that togetherness in the Courtyard seeing 1000s people sitting together, crying for the return of our IMAM.
We underestimated the sense of euphoria we experienced.The feeling of standing between all the Shias brings peace within the heart.
It's a phenomenal feeling to know all these people surrounding you believe the same and it's just a feeling we couldn't comprehend and we were constantly in awe.
It is said that on Tuesday night, you can feel Imam Mahdi's presence in Dua Tawassul. On a good night, you can almost feel his embrace.
We've been here two days and it already feels like home.Written by: Asiyah Jessa and Fatema Zahra Shivji - Madinah
Monday 17th July 2017 - Day 1:
We have been waiting for months to come to this camp. The excitement was just not ending!Jamia tuz Zahra is a really wonderful place to be and there are lots of friendly people around. Though the Farsi words make us go blank!
Most of the scholars we met in the opening ceremony gave a small lecture, saying that we are very lucky to come to this camp and we also should make most of it. One of the scholars called Shaykh Mohammad Ali Ismail said that we should remember 3 things. One of them is that we should be ready to take all the knowledge/guidance available to us. The second thing is we should share it with others. Last of all is that we should pray to Allah to help us understand and reflect on it and learn more.
We all were so thrilled to go to the shrine of Bibi Ma'sooma (A.S). And as we entered, there were lots and lots of people. Many of us had never come before or had come once but couldn't remember it. As we got closer to the shrine we felt a connection with Bibi Ma'sooma, and our hearts were racing, and we were in tears with love. The most heart-touching moment was when we touched the shrine and we felt like we saw her and we greeted her with lots of love. This moment will remain engraved in our hearts for the rest of our lives.
Written by:Siddiqa Anwarali (Arusha) & Zehra Virjee (Arusha)
These last few days I have noticed a change within myself, a change that I have been longing for years and finally I have found it, my peace and serenity. Qum has been an experience that I cannot describe as it has no words, you have to be here to understand what emotions and feelings happen within yourself.