The best weapon to de-radicalise Isis returnees? Our own humanity | Sanam Naraghi Anderlini

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 September, 2017 - 17:15
Extremists coming back from Syria must not be seen as one-dimensional, Bond-movie bad guys. Our task is to remember that perpetrators can be victims

With relentless air strikes and ground attacks against Islamic State in Syria, hundreds of their foreign fighters and supporters are massing on the Turkish border, trying to get out. Of the at least 20,000 foreign fighters estimated to have been in Syria, 2,500 were thought to be Europeans, of whom 850 were British. Many may have died, but those who remain are likely to try to return home at some stage. For many people, that will be a frightening thought.

Related: Hundreds of Isis defectors mass on Syrian border hoping to flee

If we fall victim to this sort of thinking, we become that which we abhor and fear

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Muslim fostering row: Careless press must be held to account | Tay Jiva

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 September, 2017 - 09:12

Astounding claims in the reporting of this case are much more harmful than placing a child with a family of a different faith

Late last month, the Times made some rather astounding claims that Tower Hamlets council had placed a five-year-old white, British Christian girl into the care of a niqab-wearing Muslim family who didn’t speak English. As a qualified children’s social worker with more than 20 years’ experience, I suspected the story was exaggerated. My suspicions were confirmed within the next few days as the council claimed there were numerous errors in the reporting of the case and a court order was published.

For the last two years, I’ve managed an adoption and fostering recruitment project for the Penny Appeal. We’ve had more than 250 applicants from all over the UK in the past six months. The project targets Muslim adopters and foster carers because our preliminary research found that of the 3,000 Muslim children entering foster care every year, approximately half spend time living in non-Muslim homes. In fact, our research found that of the 70 Muslim children placed into foster care by Tower Hamlets in 2015, 14 were placed into non-Muslim homes. Our concerns about the availability of Muslim carers was shared by the Department for Education, which provided £200,000 in December 2016 to expand our the project.

Related: The Muslim fostering row is a culture war in action | Gaby Hinsliff

Related: Furore about child’s Muslim foster carer ‘a threat to service’

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5 Ways to Get Through Disappointment

altmuslim - 14 September, 2017 - 18:30
Henry David Thoreau said, "If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment." Here are five ways to help us all get through our disappointments in life.

A Du’aa Better than Hours of Worship

Muslim Matters - 14 September, 2017 - 18:18

One day Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) left the home of his wife, Juwayreyyah bint Al-Hareth (may Allah be pleased by her), to go for salatul-Fajr, the dawn Prayer, while she was worshipping Allah in her designated prayer area at home.

After several hours, during the time of Duha, in the forenoon, the Prophet (ﷺ) returned home and saw his wife Juwayreah remembering Allah in the same place she was at when he left earlier in the morning. So, he asked her: “ما زلتِ على الحالِ التي فارقتُكِ عليها ؟” (Are you still in the same position since I have left you?) She replied in the affirmative and said: “Yes.”

The Prophet (ﷺ), being who he is, the loving and caring man to his family, friends, me and you, taught us all the following great du’aa and lesson. He said: “I have recited 4 statements 3 times after I had left you. If they were to be weighed with what you said it would outweigh them!” (they are) سبحان اللهِ وبحمدِه ، عددَ خلقِه ورضَا نفسِه وزِنَةِ عرشِه ومِدادَ كلماتِه “Subhana-llahi wa behamdih, (1) ‘adada khalqih, (2) wa reDa nafsih, (3) wa zenata ‘arshih, (4) wa me dada kalemaatih.” [Muslim]

That is all. So the Pprophet (ﷺ) repeating these words 3 times, spending less than 30 seconds, was more rewarding and blessed than the hours of worship our beloved mother Juwayreyyah (may Allah be pleased by her) has spent! Allahu akbar- God is Great.

Let’s explain each segment of the supplication to fully appreciate how powerful it is. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) began that du’aa by saying:

  • Subhana Allah
    • Usually translated as: All glory be to Allah.
    • It can be further explained as follows: O Allah you are free from any imperfection, free from any shortcoming, free from any lie attributed to you by the haters and the ignorant and free from any association or similarity in any way to any being.
    • So here, you negate every negative attributed to Allah. Subhana Allah!
  • Then he (ﷺ) said, wa behamdih
    • One of the meanings of it is: “O Allah you are deserving of all praise”
    • With that praise, you affirm Allah’s oneness, uniqueness, strength, capability and all of His beautiful names and all types of praise!
    • So here, you affirm every positive attributed to Allah.

Now what remained in that du’aa is the description and explanation of to what extent we want to negate the negative and affirm the positive attributed to Allah.

Let me give you a quick analogy to help appreciate what remained in the du’aa, there is a child who would tell their parents “I love you!” and there is another child who further describes to what extent is that love by saying: “I love you sooooooooo much! As bright as the sun! As biiiiiiiiiiiig as the sky!”. Both have verbally expressed their love but surely the latter had stronger expressions.

Allah is the best of examples, to what extent you want to express to Allah the statement, Subhana Allahi wa be7amdih, to what extent you want to negate the negative and affirm the positive attributed to Allah?

  • # 1: ‘adada khalqih:
    • By the amount and number of His creation!
    • Do you realize how large of a number that will come up to!
      • That includes every human being, every jinn, every angel, every animal, every living and non-living thing, every grain of sand in the deserts and every drop of water in the oceans! Every star and plant! Every creation, that which we know about and that which we do not know about! Allahu akbar!
  • # 2: Wa ReDa nafsih:
    • Until He is pleased!
    • O Allah I glorify you and praise you with the quality and quantity of that which pleases you.
    • This is the greatest goal you can achieve and the greatest extent you can reach!
  • # 3: Wa zenata ‘arshih:
    • As heavy as His throne!
    • Reflect on the greatness of Allah’s throne. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:
      • ‏ أُذِنَ لِي أَنْ أُحَدِّثَ عَنْ مَلَكٍ مِنْ مَلاَئِكَةِ اللَّهِ مِنْ حَمَلَةِ الْعَرْشِ إِنَّ مَا بَيْنَ شَحْمَةِ أُذُنِهِ إِلَى عَاتِقِهِ مَسِيرَةُ سَبْعِمِائَةِ عَامٍ
      • “I have been permitted to tell about one of Allah’s angels who bears the throne that the distance between the lobe of his ear and his shoulder is a journey of seven hundred years.” [Abu Dawud]
    • Allahu akbar, how magnificent is Allah’s throne!
  • #4: Wa medaada kalemaatih:
    • And by the amount of ink and pens that are required to write down His words:
      • His words include: His commands, what He has decreed and His knowledge of everything including the knowledge of the unseen, and the knowledge of what happens on the land and sea, and his knowledge of every leaf that falls from the tree.
      • Allah has said:
        • وَلَوْ أَنَّمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مِن شَجَرَةٍ أَقْلَامٌ وَالْبَحْرُ يَمُدُّهُ مِن بَعْدِهِ سَبْعَةُ أَبْحُرٍ مَّا نَفِدَتْ كَلِمَاتُ اللَّـهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
        • “And if whatever trees upon the earth were pens and the sea [was ink], refilled thereafter by seven [more] seas, the words of Allah would not be exhausted (but the ink and the pens would be exhausted). Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” [31:27]

The more you contemplate on these four descriptions the more you would appreciate the power of this du’aa and the more blessings you’d receive from Allah. Remember to repeat this supplication 3 times every morning and remind others too.

The Supplication Series: The Forgotten Piece of Flesh

Ramadan Supplication Series: Seeking Refuge from Four Things

A Life-Changing Dua of Unimaginable Proportions

Why ‘platooning’ is a bad thing

Indigo Jo Blogs - 14 September, 2017 - 16:38

Two articulated lorries with DAF XF tractor units bearing Dutch number plates, painted in a blue and white striped livery with "EcoTwin" and "European Truck Platooning" logos on bothI’m a truck driver and for the most part I enjoy my job. I get to see different parts of the country every day and much of what I see apart from roads (and industrial parks, service stations etc) consists of green fields, hills and valleys and pretty villages and small towns. Most of the jobs I do are low-pressure, varied, not banal and do not require me to be in close proximity to others (strangers) for long periods in the day. It can be tedious, motorway driving especially, but I can listen to the radio or stock up on podcasts and audio-books to listen to on the way. A lot of driving jobs, however, consist of the same trip every day, often from a pallet freight depot somewhere to a ‘hub’ somewhere in the Midlands in the evening and returning in the early morning. Every night the motorways are filled with these lorries, mostly ‘double-deckers’ about 16 feet high, usually about three of them from each of about five companies in each postcode area. In the USA, they are already testing a system they call ‘platooning’, or running three trucks together with only one ‘active’ driver, the others controlled by computers connected to the truck at the front, and tests of these set-ups are shortly to take place here. I think this is a bad idea.

To begin with, the ‘platoons’ do not consist of entirely driverless trucks; there will be a driver in all of them, but only the front driver is actually driving all the time. When the truck is on a long stretch of motorway in which nothing is expected to change for a long period, the middle and rear drivers can take their hands off the wheel. That works in parts of the USA where distances are long, such as in the Arizona desert. In the UK, there really aren’t long stretches of motorway like that. The M1, for example, has stretches where the hard shoulder is sometimes used for regular traffic and sometimes not, and stretches which are quite narrow and windy (e.g. near Luton), has frequent roadworks and closures (almost every night), and has very frequent interchanges. Many motorways have junctions where two or three lanes go under and one goes off to a roundabout (e.g. the M40 at junction 4). So human intervention is going to be required very frequently, to say nothing of the large parts of many such journeys that are not along motorways or where re-routing is necessary to avoid delays, sometimes at quite short notice. The driver will have to intervene in emergencies, and the nature of emergencies is that they happen in split seconds — a car pulling in between you and the vehicle in front and slowing rapidly, for example. So he won’t be able to have a snooze or read a book or do anything which will allow him to pay less attention to the road. The job will just be even more tedious than it already is.

I have my doubts about the technology involved. It has already been suggested that the wireless technology used to communicate between the leading and following vehicles may be subject to interception by terrorists. I find this unlikely as the driver can override it (or at least should be able to), although any truck can simply be hijacked, much as any aeroplane which isn’t locked down, as commercial airliners are now, can be. What is more likely is that it can just fail: most modern trucks have technology in every corner and yet sensor failures or defects happen all the time (though particularly on early computerised trucks; they have improved in the last few years) and drivers are faced with spurious errors about, for example, low tyre pressure, all the time. The wireless connection could be lost, for example because of interference, damage to the aerial, a loose connection somewhere or a bug in the software. The connection is likely to be weaker between the front and rear trucks than between the front and middle, despite being more vital as there are two trucks closely ahead instead of just one. The majority of articulated trucks do not have rear cameras to help with reversing (I’ve only seen one that has, and it appears to have been installed by the regular driver as no other truck on that fleet has one), and this would be a far more useful application for this technology.

The Freight Transport Association, which represents hauliers, has said that this technology will help to reduce fuel costs and emissions. However, it still involves multiple vehicles of up to 44 tonnes with 12- or 13-litre diesel engines travelling at between 50 and 56mph over several hundred miles. Of course, there are ways of reducing emissions and improving efficiency, but getting rid of the driver along sections where fuel use is generally constant anyway, because the conditions are (expected to be) constant, will not make much difference unless the driver is incompetent or makes perverse driving decisions; driving style makes more difference where there is more acceleration and braking being done, which is along stretches where they must be driven by the driver. A transport minister, Paul Maynard, has said that platooning “could benefit … other road users thanks to lower emissions and less congestion”; how? Three trucks of which two are controlled by computer are still three trucks, with the same three 12-litre diesel engines. And a three-truck pile-up caused by computer failure will have the same impact as one caused by driver error, and as part of the plan is that the trucks drive closer together than is usual with human-driven trucks, any failure of that technology has a high risk of having that effect, as the stopping distance of a computer-operated truck is the same as any other truck, and there’ll be no stopping if there’s no thinking.

The real reason I don’t like this development is that the end game is to eliminate drivers’ jobs, and it comes just at a time when a lot of eastern European drivers are going to be moving abroad and they don’t want to have to go back to paying wages that you could pay rent on in London to drivers again. Maybe they’ll end up with trucks being driven with a mixture of autopilot and ‘drivers’ located in front of rows of computers in an office somewhere, like drone pilots (all the better to increase load weight, of course). It will give them an excuse to pay the drivers on the tedious night trunk jobs even less than some of them are paid now, perhaps even minimum wage, for a job that will become even more tedious — it would not be quite so bad if you could ever put your feet up and read a book when driving a 44-tonne truck down a motorway but a £4/hr wage penalty is still a £4/hr wage penalty. There is already a way to move multiple large containers of goods from place to place; you have one big engine at the front, you link all the wagons with the containers on them together, and you have two metal rails underneath so the wagons can’t go astray. Of course, moving some freight from road to rail is good for the environment and in principle I don’t have any objections to automating some of the more tedious aspects of the routine driving jobs, but I fear it won’t stop there: it’ll destroy the enjoyable jobs too.

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The Newest Americans: portraits from the 'most diverse' US university

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 September, 2017 - 11:00

Photoville, a collection of 75 exhibitions, focuses on the lives of the incredibly varied student and faculty population of Rutgers University, in New Jersey

Marisol Conde-Hernandez has been out and proud as an undocumented Latina ever since she can remember, growing up in New Jersey. Now she wants to be the first undocumented immigrant in the state to be allowed to register as a lawyer.

Related: Art created by immigrants removed in travel ban protest – in pictures

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In Defense of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and the Personal Reform of Traditional Islam

altmuslim - 12 September, 2017 - 23:50
Muslims need to understand that it is possible to both defend a fellow community group unconditionally from political persecution and structural oppression, while simultaneously also offering critical and qualified support for the content of their campaigns, as and where they differ from fundamental Islamic parameters.

Persecution of the Rohingya is nothing new

Indigo Jo Blogs - 12 September, 2017 - 21:52

A bicycle abandoned in the grass in front of a burning building in a Burmese Muslim villageThe persecution of the Rohingya in Burma (Myanmar in the main native language) has picked up in the last few weeks, with obvious signs of genocide or as the UN has called it “classic ethnic cleansing”, the burnings of villages and half-hearted attempt to disguise the burnings as the Muslims (Rohingya) burning their own homes. The ‘provocation’ was some attacks on Burmese police and military by a new Rohingya militant force and this is being used to justify attacks on civilians by Burmese forces. Aung San Suu Kyi, long-time leader of the National League for Democracy who won elections in 1988 but was prevented from taking power by a military coup and is now foreign minister, has mouthed the military-dominated government’s line and been condemned by many of her former liberal allies in the West. There have been calls for her Nobel Peace Prize to be rescinded, although there is no mechanism for this to happen.

I first became aware of the situation in Burma as a teenager, when I saw full-page adverts from Amnesty International which described the campaign of rape, torture and murder against Muslim civilians by the Burmese army in the early days of the second period of military dictatorship (then known as SLORC, or State Law and Order Restoration Council; they have used various other names in the period since the 1988 coup). The one I remember had the headline “The soldiers who crucified her husband and raped her 12-year-old sister to death will do it again, and again, and again. And there’s nothing we can do to stop them”. It described how a woman and her sister were imprisoned with a group of other Muslim women by soldiers who would pick a woman every day and rape her in front of the others. The sister eventually died of a seizure and the mother was released. The accompanying article said that the Burmese military did not care what Amnesty or anyone else thought of their butchery.

At the same time, AI were championing ASSK as a ‘prisoner of conscience’. At the time, she was being held under house arrest unless she decided to leave the country. She was the daughter of Aung San, a founding general of the Burmese army, premier of the British Crown colony of Burma and founder of the Burmese Communist Party (assassinated just before independence) and clearly got special treatment from the military regime; other high-profile political prisoners got far worse treatment from some less extreme dictatorships than Burma’s. Almost any time the dictatorship was mentioned in the British media, she was the only prisoner mentioned by name (on one occasion, U Nu, prime minister before the 1962 coup and also a popular spiritual leader) was mentioned in AI’s publication as a POC). No coincidence that she had spent much of her adult life living in Britain and America, that she had a British husband and two sons living in the UK and having a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Oxford University. Despite retaining Buddhist beliefs, she was obviously very westernised and quite photogenic from a western point of view.

I never trusted her. In the manner in which she rose to (near-)power, she follows the same pattern as so many other female Asian politicians such as Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto and Megawati Sukarnoputri, namely being the daughter or widow of a dead (usually assassinated) male politician or “great leader”. She had two sons who were still children when she left the UK for Burma in 1988. Admittedly, she travelled initially to look after her own mother, but remained there for twenty years for vain political reasons and missed not only their adolescence but also her husband’s terminal illness. Apparently this was ‘the deal’ when she married Michael Aris in 1972 — that Burma had the ‘first claim’ on her — but her sons weren’t around when the ‘deal’ was made. I can’t admire a mother who chose not to be a mother to her children before they become adults; I’m not going to say “a woman’s place is in the home” (although that has proven to be her place for the intervening two decades, just not the home where her children live), but a mother’s place should be fairly close by. If she had been allowed to take office within a few years, the sacrifice could have been said to have been worth it, but she stayed in the country for more than 20 years and the rewards — becoming a minister in a military-dominated government at a time when persecution was turning into outright genocide — were so miserable. Yet her saintly reputation was promoted until recently, as well as the notion that there really was nobody to lead except her — and, of course, no other opposition leaders were ever given coverage in the western media. Did ASSK spend any of her time in exile building a government in waiting? If not, why is she considered the person to lead Burma?

As for the Nobel Peace Prize, there have been so many undeserving recipients over the years and at the time, ASSK did apparently merit it, in as much as any other recipient had — more so perhaps than Arafat and Rabin, or that friend of the Duvalier family and abuser of the sick, Mother Theresa, or Henry Kissinger. Many of them have not been people who devoted their lives to the cause of peace but people who had contributed to both war and peace. That said, is being an opposition leader who had not taken to arms despite the vicious nature of the regime she was opposing really that admirable? General Ne Win and SLORC were not the British Raj; they were not a regime with a conscience and did not have to answer to a public “back home” that would not tolerate massacre. ‘Peaceful’ resistance is always the type of ‘resistance’ powerful people preach to those they want to see crushed, and sometimes the only way to combat oppression is to combat it, in the traditional fashion.

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from Matthew Smith (no relation) of Fortify Rights, a human rights group which monitors the situation in Burma, saying “We condemn all attacks. Context: The vast majority of Rohingya militants in Myanmar carry sticks & knives. Myanmar Army carries an arsenal.” I responded that I supported the Rohingya’s right to fight back as they were being persecuted in their only home country and rejected by all their neighbours. I got a flood of tweets from people (or bots) supporting the Burmese regime, claiming that “they are just invaders from border, no more ethnicity” (sic), “#Myanmar have every right to fight back as they are being killed by bengali in myanmar country and rejected by all world media” and similar sentiments, echoing the line of the regime in Naypyidaw (the military regime’s new capital). I don’t play the condemnation game on Palestine and I won’t play it about the Rohingya either, and the situation in Arakan is far worse than in Palestine and has been for decades. The obligation for peacefulness and law-abidingness doesn’t apply when the ruling power is neither and there is nowhere else to go. The argument that “they came from over the border” is not valid even if true, as they came generations ago. They were citizens of Burma, serving in Parliament before the 1962 coup, until 1982 when the military dictator Ne Win excluded them.

Right now, the Rohingya’s best hope is to be taken in by surrounding countries, particularly Muslim countries of which there are many — Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan (I won’t count the Maldives as they have severe environmental pressures); it is possible that Turkey will also accept some. There is a case to be made for military action against Burma, as they will not desist from persecution and violence against the Rohingya if left in charge of their homeland, but between them they can absorb a million Rohingya and if the government also persecutes the Rohingya Hindu minority, India can take those. We cannot rely on the remote prospect of genuine democratic reform in Burma itself as the military are unwilling to give up power and the population has been subject to decades of propaganda from the regime as well as from monks sympathetic to a Hindu-style nationalism. But the wider world has a responsibility to the Rohingya and the Muslim countries of the region must take them in if they are unwilling to militarily guarantee their safety in their homeland. We as Muslims should be putting pressure on these governments to do one of these two things, as well as on our own governments to take in Rohingya refugees and to stop arming the Burmese regime. Of course, the United Nations cannot be relied on; they will not act to stop genocide and we will not even hear the word mentioned at the Security Council as it will mean action, which there has not been in the face of two genocides in the 1990s.

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Zaid Karim, Private Investigator, Part 15 – Ouagadiri Island

Muslim Matters - 12 September, 2017 - 10:25

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories.

Zaid Karim Private Investigator is a full length novel. Previous chapters: Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14

Tuesday, February 8, 2010 – 8 am
Colon, Panama

I woke up to pray Fajr. It helped that Panama time was three hours ahead of California time, so my body thought it was getting extra sleep. My head still ached from the hit with the baseball bat. But in all the strangeness of this trip, my salat, my prayer, was a familiar refuge. It was a quiet moment of peace, a still haven in which I turned to my Lord and begged forgiveness for my mistakes. I asked for guidance, and simply experienced the feeling of being present before Allah. All else fell away, and for those few minutes I was at peace.

After prayer I went back to bed. I shouldn’t have been able to sleep. I should have been haunted by the memories of all that had happened. Nearly drowning in the Río Curundú. Niko standing in front of Soccer Boy’s gun, screaming, “Kill me!” Angie’s broken body and spirit. El Pelado raising the bat high, about to crush my skull, and then being cut in two by a hail of gunfire. This case was taking me in the opposite direction from where I needed to go spiritually. I was striving to become less violent and more compassionate, while this case was immersing me in violence. I was a fish swimming in a lake full of blood, and apparently I didn’t mind because I slept like some innocent angel baby, if angels could have babies. I’m not proud of that.

In the morning the headache had lessened a bit. Niko and I ate a quick breakfast of white rice, scrambled eggs, black beans and gallo pinto, then returned to the room. I suggested going to the police. After all, we had a kidnapped child and a suspect. This was a major crime.

Niko proceeded to poke a dozen holes in that idea. Major crimes were an everyday occurrence in Colon; the police were overwhelmed, and we’d make ourselves suspects in the murder of El Pelado. Also, if there was collusion between the cops and El Demonio, we’d only be alerting the kingpin that we were after him. The next thing that would happen was that bad guys would track us down and separate our heads from our shoulders.

I liked my head firmly attached. Things just seemed to work better that way.

If Anna were to be rescued, we would have to do it ourselves. Niko and I brainstormed, outlining ideas on the small writing pad from the room desk. We worked for an hour, tearing up one sheet of paper after another. Every idea was suicide. Neither of us were trained soldiers. We had no training in siege tactics, infiltration or defeating security systems. Any attempt to reach that island and rescue Anna would end in both of us being captured, tortured and killed.

It didn’t matter. I had to try. Tarek had been my friend. And Anna was an innocent child. What if it was Hajar who’d been sold into slavery? What would I do? I would stop at nothing to bring her home. I could do no less for Anna.

I tried to convince Niko to help me find a boat and a pilot, then leave the rest of the job to me. I didn’t want his death on my conscience. I didn’t want to go to my grave knowing I’d made Niko’s wife a widow, and his children orphans. Plus, of course, he was an unstable maniac.

Niko would not hear it. We argued and shouted. At one point he punched the wall and left a dent in it. Great, I thought. They’ll bill that to my credit card.

Finally I gave in. We left the hotel together and took a taxi to a remittance office that also handled Western Union money transfers. Niko sent his entire $10K to his family, while I transferred $7K to Safaa. Then I handed my companion five hundred dollars in cash and sent him off to rent a boat. Meanwhile I took a taxi to the Free Trade Zone.

Colon Free Trade Zone

Colon Free Trade Zone

It wasn’t what I expected. The FTZ turned out to be a huge commercial park with dozens of warehouse sized buildings that sprawled along the Caribbean waterfront, where products from all over the world were imported, assembled, repackaged, exported or sold. These included appliances, electronics, pharmaceuticals, cigarettes and liquor, furniture, clothing and shoes, jewelry, toys, and all manner of home and office supplies.

One of the buildings housed a collection of retail shops including restaurants and an internet cafe. I went into the internet shop and rented a computer station that was set up with a headphone and microphone for internet calls or video chats. There were seven or eight rows of closely packed computers, and many were occupied. Most of the other customers looked Arab, Indian or Chinese.

I needed to talk to Safaa and Hajar. I planned to make my rescue attempt that very evening, and I knew the odds were against my survival. By the end of the night my body would probably be bumping along the bottom of the Caribbean, an Arabic food buffet for crabs – the Zaid Karim special – or maybe I’d be stretched out on the floor of El Demonio’s mansion with my head – as Niko had said – separated from my shoulders and being used as a football by El Demonio’s men.

Okay, so my imagination is not my friend. Point being, I had to see my family’s faces one last time. It was now about 11:00 am on a Tuesday. It would be 8:00 am in Fresno. If Allah Subhanahu wa Taala’s good fortune smiled down on me, I might just catch Safaa on her way out the door to drop Hajar at daycare.

I logged into Skype, and  added money to my Skype account from my bank account. Then I called Safaa’s phone.

“Who is this?” Safaa had me on speakerphone and her voice was muffled by street noise. So they’d already left the house. She was driving.

“It’s me. How are you?”

“Zaid? You didn’t come up on the caller ID. Are you still in Panama?”

“Honey, could you pull over for a minute?”

“Don’t call me honey. And we’re running late.”

I took a deep breath and reined in my desire to slam a fist onto the desk. “Please Safaa. It’s important.”

“You can talk to Hajar. I’ll pass the phone to her. Hajar, talk to Baba.”

Some part of my love for Safaa, some crucial component that made the wheels of my heart turn, shut off inside me then. I felt it in my chest, like a railroad switch that had just been thrown, diverting a train from one track onto another, with an entirely different destination. One of the reasons I loved Safaa so much was that she had always been there for me, always had my back. But that wasn’t the case anymore. My love was based on an obsolete dynamic. I was stuck in the past, refusing to see that my version of the world was dead and fossilized. I’d resisted this truth for months, but I felt it settle in now, falling like acid rain in the ventricles of my heart. The train had been switched, the destination altered. In my mind’s eye I could see Safaa on a different track, diverging, moving steadily away.

Hajar, on the other hand, was my daughter and always would be. She was my sweet raspberry, my honey, my cutie pie. I had intended to ask Safaa to turn on the Skype app so we could talk face to face, but it was fine. Voice alone would have to do.

“Sala ‘laykum Baba,” Hajar said cheerily.

I smiled and instantly my eyes became wet. “Wa alaykum as-salam honey. Are you having a good morning?”

“Uh-huh. I had a dream that I was a pony, and I was with Rarity and Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony, and we were going down a slide into a lake of strawberry milk, then the other ponies turned into floating pumpkins so I went home.”

“Wow, ma-sha-Allah. You’d like to have a lake like that, wouldn’t you?”

“I would drink as much as I could, then all my dolls would drink until it was gone!”

“You want to hear about the three aliens?”


This was a little story that Hajar absolutely loved, even though she’d heard it a dozen times. “Three little aliens landed on earth in their spaceship,” I began. “They spread out to learn something about earth people. One went into a diner and heard someone say, ‘I need a fork and knife.’ Wanting to learn earth language, the alien began repeating, ‘Fork and knife, fork and knife, fork and knife.’”

Hajar started to giggle uncontrollably, and continued to laugh as I went on to narrate how the aliens went about mimicking English phrases and using them in inappropriate ways, getting themselves into more and more trouble. When the story was done I said, “Listen sweetie, I have some important things to tell you.”

“Okay, Baba.”

“I love you always and forever no matter what.”

“I already know that Baba, you say that every time.”

“Yes. I know. But…” I struggled to control myself and not let the depth of my emotion show. “Even if you didn’t see me for a while, even if I wasn’t around, I would still love you always and forever. You know that right?”


“Repeat what I said back to me, please.”

“You would always love me forever.”

I nodded and closed my eyes. “Now tell me, what is the most important thing in life?”

“Allah,” she replied without hesitation.

I smiled. “Very good. Always have a good relationship with Allah. Do you know the word relationship?”

“It’s a big boat.”

“No, not a ship. Relationship means to be close to Allah, pray to Him, love Him, think about what He wants you to do, like that.”

“That’s what I meant to say.”

I shook my head and chuckled. This kid could never admit she was wrong. She inherited that from her mom. “Second,” I continued, “your best example in life is the Prophet Muhammad, sal-Allahu alayhi wa-sallam. Third, have a good relationship with Mama. No one will ever love you like her. Always listen to her. When something upsets you, tell her.”

“Okay, Baba.”

There was nothing else to say. I could repeat these same points over and over, make Hajar recite them back, but what was the point? We had either raised her right or we had not. These fundamentals – loving Allah, loving the Prophet, loving her parents – were in her heart, or they were not. And I believed they were. “Now pass the phone to Mama, please.”

“What is it Zaid?” Safaa said, her tone brusque but not rude. “We’re pulling up to Hajar’s daycare.”

“I need you to write something down. Do you have a pen?”

She let out an exasperated breath. “Hold on.” Thirty seconds went by then she said, “Okay, what is it?”

“I sent you seven thousand dollars through Western Union. Here’s the transfer control number.” I slowly listed the ten digit code she would need to pick up the money. “Did you get that?”

“Yeah. Wow. I don’t understand. Are the Anwars still paying you?”

“No, it’s a long story. Listen, I have something to tell you.”

“Okay.” She sounded much more agreeable now that I’d just sent her a sizeable chunk of money.

“I love you,” I said. “I have no anger and no regret. I forgive you for everything. I was always faithful to you, but please forgive me for whatever mistakes I’ve made. Remember me kindly, and don’t let Hajar forget me.” My lower jaw began to quiver, and tears ran down my cheeks.

Safaa’s tone became suddenly serious. “Wait, why are you saying this? What’s happening down there?”

“I’m doing what I have to do. I have to be the man I am. Take care of our little girl. And thank you for all you have done for me. You made my life rich and bright. I have to go now.”


I ended the call. Then I brushed the tears from my face and called brother Saleem, my Pakistani friend who managed the homeless shelter. He was a joker, but I trusted him more than anyone I knew.

He answered on the first ring. “As-salamu alaykum, what it be like?”

“Wa alaykum as-salam, it’s Zaid.”

“Oh hey, my man, I’ve been wanting to talk to you. I have some ideas for how to get your wife back.”

“Oh? What are they?”

“One. Reverse Psychology. You run up to her and shout, ‘I’m filing a restraining order against you! Stop calling me!’ Then you draw a chalk line on the floor and dare her to cross it. Then, while she tries to think of what to say, you hug her and say, ‘It’s okay, I forgive you.’ Then me and your other friends step out of hiding and start cheering and throwing marigold petals.”

I chuckled. “Next idea.”

“Oh. Okay. Number two: The Hero. Me and your Musketeers friends dress up like thugs with ski masks. We burst into Safaa’s classroom and start tossing textbooks around and scraping our fingernails on the chalkboard. You soar into the room and begin a choreographed action scene where you take everyone out in fine fashion. You deliver the final blow to a dazed enemy – me – by moonwalking toward him and throwing a backfist. The rest is history.”

I laughed out loud. “Next.”

“There’s one more. It’s called Sea Monster, but it’s still in beta development.”

“I see. Thanks for that.”

“No problem. How goes the case? What are you working on?”

“It’s a long story. I’m actually calling you about something important.”

“What is it?”

“I want you to make me a promise.”

“Sure, man.” Saleem must have sensed the tension in my voice, because his tone became serious – a rare thing for him. “Anything.”

“The case I’m on right now… It’s getting hairy. I want you to swear that if anything should happen to me, you’ll look out for Safaa and Hajar. I don’t mean, like, marry her or anything-”

“Marry?” Saleem broke in. “What the heck are you talking about?”

“Never mind. Forget I said marry. I’m just saying, if I don’t return, keep an eye on them, make sure they’re safe and provided for.”

“Why are you saying this bro? You’re scaring me.”

“Just swear to me!” My voice rose, and some of the people around me in the cafe turned to look.

“Okay! I swear. But-”

“Jazak Allah khayr. I have to go. Take care, brother. I love you fee sabeel-illah.” I hung up before Saleem could ask any questions.

I googled Manuel Carretera, aka El Demonio. I read the news articles about him, detailing his many crimes, including the hundreds suspected dead at the hands of him and his gang. I studied his face until I could call it up with my eyes closed, down to his missing right ear, apparently lost in a knife fight in his youth. It was the face of evil, of one who has chosen to align himself with the devil, whether one understands that literally or figuratively.

When I was done, I paid for my computer time and walked out into the FTZ to buy the things I needed.

As it turned out, the FTZ was geared toward bulk commercial merchandise, and was not especially affordable for single item purchases. I had to do a lot of walking in the heat from building to building. With every step I took, I experienced a grinding soreness in my right side, where I’d been kicked by El Pelado. My headache grew steadily worse, until it felt like my temples were caught in a vice.

Still, I was able to find what I wanted, though I was hot, tired and in real pain by the time I was done. I left in a taxi, having purchased two night vision goggles, two binoculars, two flashlights, two waterproof watches, diving wetsuits and diving knives, scuba dry bags, swimming flippers and goggles, walkie talkies, and a large first aid supply kit. Thanks to the cash I’d scored off El Pelado, I had plenty left over to get Anna home, Insha’Allah.

* * *

Apparently in the tropics the sun rose and set at nearly the same time all year long. Sunrise was at around 6:30 am here, and sunset at 6:30 pm. I took a nap, giving my body a little more recuperation time, then we checked out of the hotel. I left the tall soccer hat on the bed as a gift for the maid, just in case there were any rumors going around about an Arab in a soccer hat asking questions everywhere.

We took a taxi a half hour eastward up the coast, then inland to the end of a gravel road. From there we walked down a dirt path that led into the rainforest. We’d distributed our supplies between the two scuba packs.

Panama Rainforest

Panama Rainforest

As we walked I found myself entranced by the living, breathing jungle around me, so much so that I almost forgot the constant grinding pain in my right side. The trees closed around and above us, deep and green and vibrant with life. Birds called, monkeys hooted, and small animals bounded through the undergrowth. Lines of leaf cutter ants carried their prizes to their underground dens. Every few minutes I had to slap a mosquito from my skin. We waded a small stream and a tall gray heron with a gracefully curved neck burst into flight.

After a half hour we emerged from the forest to find a small seaside village. The people were simply dressed in jeans or shorts, t-shirts and blouses. Most were barefoot. Kids played soccer in the road while women cooked or washed clothes in buckets. One group of women sat in a circle singing a church hymn. Many waved and greeted us as if we were old friends.

One young woman eyed me speculatively. She was slender, olive skinned and dark haired, and maybe nineteen years old. Perhaps in another life I could marry her and settle down in this sleepy little village, where I’d live a quiet life fishing, napping in hammocks, playing with my children and juggling coconuts. The idea attracted me powerfully, and I realized after a moment’s contemplation that what I truly wanted was love. That was all. I wanted the love of a good woman.

A man came walking slowly up the street. He wore rubber boots, jeans, a t-shirt and a Panama hat. His skin was brown and deeply seamed. His entire manner spoke of his weariness after a long day at work. A little girl burst out of a house and ran to meet him. She carried a handful of blue zinnia flowers in her hand, and she ran to the man, hugged him and gave him the flowers. He accepted the flowers as if they were a treasure. He picked the girl up and they went into the house.

A memory popped into my head and it nearly floored me. How had I forgotten this? Back in 2005, when I first got out of prison, Aziz invited me to the aqiqah for his second child. I literally had only been out of the joint – prison – for three days. I hadn’t married Safaa yet, and hadn’t met Saleem. Almost everyone at the party knew who I was and where I’d been, and no one wanted to talk to me. Or maybe I – fearing their condemnation – didn’t want to talk to them. Tarek was there and we exchanged a few words, then he disappeared, maybe to the bathroom to shoot up. I went out to the backyard and sat in a patio chair, staring at the sky, trying to get used to the idea that I was free. A tiny girl with long brown hair appeared in front of me. She wore a green dress and pink slippers, and in her hand she held a selection of garden flowers she’d obviously picked. She thrust them at me and said, “This is for you, because you seem lonely.” I accepted the flowers and – too moved and choked up to speak – merely nodded. No one had shown me kindness in a long, long time, and just this little act of sweetness overwhelmed my system. The girl smiled and ran off to play with her friends.

That little girl was Anna. She was what, three years old then? And now her father was departed from this world, her mother was lost to demons, and there was no one left to protect her but me.

I had to save this girl. Wallahi, I had to save this girl, though all the forces of Shaytan himself might stand in my way. If I had to tear down Ouagadiri Island stone by stone, I would find this girl, as God was my witness.

“Zayn?” Niko put a hand on my shoulder. “Whass wrong?”

I realized that I’d been standing in place, staring at the house that the father and daughter had disappeared into.

“Come on, Zayn.” Niko took my arm and led me down the road to an open-air beachside restaurant where many of the village’s men were congregated, watching a boxing match on TV. My companion and I sat and ordered nachos and Pepsis, and I took my medication. The nachos were freshly made, topped with real cheese, black beans, and sour cream. They were delicious, alhamdulillah.

Just as it had the previous afternoon, the sky let loose an ear splitting peal of thunder, and a downpour began. The rain was so heavy it was nearly solid. At least I was under the shelter of a corrugated tin roof. The rain on the roof was like a thousand marching feet, drowning out the sound from the TV. I ate and watched the rain forming rivulets and streams and running down the sand of the beach into the sea. In time the rain stopped, and the sun dipped into the sea and disappeared.

I prayed Maghreb and ‘Isha on the beach. We didn’t plan to cast off until 10 pm, so we had time to pass. As the sky turned black, my thoughts darkened with it. I found myself thinking about what Farah had said about my mother. Had my mother aborted some sort of defective fetus before me? How then would Farah know the child was “lame”? Was it possible my mother had actually given birth? Had the child died? I had no answers.

I thought about the crippled man I‘d seen in Panama city, the man who walked on his hands. For some reason his image haunted me. The idea of living with such a shocking disability terrified me, while the charm and ease with which he bore it shamed me.

I thought about my family, my daughter growing up without me, hearing about me secondhand from people who’d never had much affection for me to start with.

Stop, I told myself. This is fruitless. I rubbed my forehead, trying to clear my mind – and remembered Salman, my superhero. The last time I’d mentally reviewed his story, I’d left off at the point of his conversion to Islam.

* * *

Though Salman had accepted Islam wholeheartedly and with great joy, he was still a slave. He missed two of the battles against the pagans. The Prophet (saw) told him: “Write, O Salman,” meaning write a proposal for your freedom to your master. Salman did so, and reached an agreement where he would pay for his freedom forty ounces of gold and would plant and successfully raise three hundred palm trees. Of course Salman had no such resources and it seemed hopeless.

The Prophet (saw) said to his companions, “Help your brother.” All the companions rose to assist Salman. One brought thirty saplings; another brought twenty; a third brought fifteen; a fourth ten, and so on, until they had collected all three hundred as needed. Salman dug holes for the seedlings, upon which the Prophet himself came and planted the first tree with his own hands. Then Salman and the companions took charge of the project, and planted the other trees. Every tree struck roots, and not one out of the three hundred was lost. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)sealed the deal by giving Salman a forty ounce golden egg and saying, “Take this, O Salman, and pay what you owe.” Salman gave it to his master and was released.

Suddenly everything changed for Salman. The gulf between slavery and freedom had appeared unbridgeable. But he had called upon Allah and His Messenger for aid, and they responded, and the gulf was bridged.

Salman became one of the closest companions of the Prophet. He was renowned for his knowledge of both the Christian scriptures and the Quran. He spoke multiple languages including Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, and Zoroastrian. He was a quiet man, speaking only when necessary, and offering concise wisdom. Because of all these he became known as the Luqman of his nation.

In early February 627, the Messenger of God ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), received intelligence that the polytheists of Makkah, witnessing the establishment of Islam in Madinah and desperate to wipe it out before it challenged their power, had gathered all the tribes of Arabia for an invasion. They possessed a cavalry and infantry of ten thousand seasoned warriors. Their intention was to obliterate Islam in one massive, coordinated attack.

The Muslims did not have the numbers to stop such an attack. They were fortunate, however, to have among them a foreigner who had been to many lands and witnessed many fighting strategies. That foreigner was, of course, Salman. He suggested that the Muslims dig a trench, too deep and wide for horses to leap over, along the exposed perimeter of the city. The trench could be manned by archers, preventing anyone from crossing.

As the trench was dug, Salman, who was rangy and muscular, worked feverishly, lifting his pick high and breaking one stone after another. All the Muslims were impressed. One of the Muhajireen who was watching Salman, claimed him as a Muhajir (an immigrant from Makkah). “Salman is one of us Muhajireen,” he said. But he was at once challenged by the Muslims of Madinah (the Ansar). One said: “No. Salman is one of us, the Ansar.”
A lively argument ensued between the two groups, each claiming Salman for their own.

Presently, the Messenger of Allah arrived on the scene, and he too heard the argument of the Muhajireen and the Ansar. He was amused by the claims of the two sides but put an end to their argument by saying: “Salman is neither Muhajir nor Ansar. He is one of us. He is one of the People of the House.” Meaning the family of the Prophet himself ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

What a tremendous honor! No one else in the entire history of Islam has ever been elevated to such a high rank.

As for the trench, hardly had the last spadeful of earth been cast when the pagan cavaliers arrived, thundering across the desert like a whirlwind. But suddenly they were checked in their charge by a strange new obstacle – the trench.

One of the Makkan generals – Amr ibn Abd Wudd – lost patience with this “static” or “un-Arab” mode of fighting, and he decided to change its character by hurdling the trench. He and three of his staff officers discovered a rocky projection which the Muslims had been unable to cut and used it to jump the trench.

Once inside the perimeter of the city, he boldly advanced toward the encampment of the Muslims and challenged them to single combat in the classical tradition of Arabian warfare. A duel between Amr ibn Abd Wud and a teenaged Ali ibn Abi Talib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)was fought, with Ali being victorious. As soon as Amr fell, the other three knights hastily retreated across the trench.
The siege went on for more than a month, during which the Muslims manned the trench day and night, in conditions of extreme cold, hunger and fear. In the end a strong wind came and scattered the pagans’ animals, tents and cooking pots. Dispirited, they departed one tribe at a time, and the siege was ended.

The failure of the siege was a most significant even in the history of Islam and Arabia. Never again did the pagans attempt an attack on Madinah, the fortress of Islam. The initiative passed, finally and irreversibly, to the Muslims, and Islam moved into a position of dominance in the Arabian Peninsula, and eventually a large part of the world.

* * *

The time came. Niko and I walked a few hundred meters to where several fishing boats were drawn up onto the beach and moored to the palm trees that grew almost to the waterline. The boat Niko had managed to secure was twenty feet long, a simple wooden boat with a small wheelhouse at the back, a single propeller, and a set of oars as a backup. It was called the Cisne Negro, or Black Swan, and was painted with horizontal green and black stripes. It was good thinking on Niko’s part to select this boat, as it would be nearly invisible on the water at night.

We unmoored the boat, shoved it down to the water, started the engine and cruised northeast into the pitch blackness of the Atlantic Ocean. Niko steered from the wheelhouse. He said he still remembered how to navigate these waters from his days as a ship’s hand in his youth. I chose to trust him, since there was no alternative.

There was no way I could challenge the security forces on that island and survive. Our plan, therefore, was based entirely on stealth. Niko had explained that the Atlantic wind and current came consistently from the east, and that we must approach the island from the windward or western side, otherwise we could be pushed by the wind into the rocky shore. We would find a geographical feature that would conceal our approach, sidle up alongside it, and drop anchor. Niko would stay with the boat while I infiltrated the island. He’d argued this point, wanting to accompany me, but I was unrelenting. If both of us went it would increase the chances of one being caught. My private reason was that I wasn’t willing to be responsible for his death. Plus, I never knew what to expect from him. Like the Atlantic winds, he could change at any moment from an asset to a liability.

I’d hide, observe, then sneak into the house, find Anna, and bring her back to the boat. If I was caught – if any noises or alarms went off, or if I shot off a flare – Niko was to pull anchor and beeline back to the mainland, where he would alert the American embassy. They wouldn’t be able to do anything, and I’d likely be dead, but at least someone would know what had transpired.

If was a half-baked plan, and I knew it. I wasn’t a Navy Seal or Marine. My arm still ached, I was still recovering from the infection. and I had a cracked rib. I didn’t know what types of security sytems El Demonio might have, or how to defeat them. He might have vicious dogs roaming the grounds, or komodo dragons for all I knew. Could komodo dragons run fast? And did they eat Arabs? Anyway, it was a stupid plan. But it was all I had.

The sea was as flat and black as a mirror. The stars twinkled on the surface as if they had fallen from the sky and begun to drown, and I was seeing their light rising from the depths. The moon was one third full and it too shone on the water, leaving a lighted path that ran to the eastern horizon. A breeze rose, offering a welcome counterpoint to the oppressive heat. It was all heartbreakingly pure and somehow merciless, as if two men on a small boat were inconsequential and beneath notice. In the distance, huge container ships floated by like tiny self-contained worlds.

I found myself reciting an ayah from Surat Ar-Rum: “Wa min ayatihi an yursil ar-riyaha mubasshiratin…” and on to the end of the ayah.

“You speak Arabe, señor Zayn? Whassat mean?”

I translated phrase by phrase: “And of His signs is that He sends the winds as bringers of good news and to let you taste His mercy, and so the ships may sail at His command, and so you may seek of His bounty, and perhaps you will be grateful.”

We were silent for a while, then Niko said, “I am grateful, señor Zayn.”

“For what?”

“Everything. This-” He reached over the side to dip a hand in the water, which splashed and streamed around it. “That-” He waved at the sky, so bright with stars it was as if all the heavens had gathered for a conference to discuss our fate. “This-” He thumped his chest twice with a fist, then twice again, matching the beating of his heart.

I nodded. No matter what happened tonight, no matter whether I lived or died, I was grateful to Allah for all I had seen and done, for the opportunities I’d had to eat good food, see beautiful places, to love and be loved, to lower my forehead and pray, and to make silly voices for my daughter’s dolls.

We chugged along for an hour. I’d begun to think we must be too far out to sea, and that Niko was lost and too macho to admit it, when he killed the engine. He pointed, and I could see the faintest twinkling of light far in the distance. The light was high up in the air, as if it were at the top of a tower, or on the peak of a mountain.

“I think that is Ougadiri,” Niko said softly.

“You think?”

“No, definitely that is Ougadiri.”

We inserted the oars into the oar hooks or muletas as Niko called them, and – facing the back of the boat – began to row, each of us working one oar, keeping our motions in sync. With every stroke I had a terrible jolt of pain in my ribs. With my left arm still weak from the infection and surgery, and my right side on fire, I could hardly row. I distracted myself by making dhikr. When I lifted the oar I said softly, “Subhan Allah” – seeing all the beauty around me – and when I dipped and pulled I said, “wa bihamdihi” – thinking of all I was grateful for. I did this again and again and soon Niko joined me, imitating my words without understanding. After sometime the pain became overwhelming and I began to grunt and wince with every stroke.

“You rest,” Niko said, and he took over both oars. I collapsed onto the bench as my companion quietly and expertly maneuvered the boat closer to the island. Ougadiri materialized into a looming dark shape that blotted out the stars. There was a mountain of maybe two hundred meters in height. The light we’d seen twinkled atop it, but I could make out no details.

As we came closer, we found ourselves at the base of a massive stone cliff that rose to the mountain above. We sidled up beside the cliff. I heard rustling and cooing sounds, and realized that hundreds of seabirds were roosted on the cliff, some on ledges or depressions, and some in the stunted trees that grew from the stone itself. Niko paralleled the cliff, occasionally using an oar to keep us from being smashed against it by stray currents. Suddenly the cliff opened into a dark maw, and I realized we were at the mouth of a cave.

Sea cliff at night

“Wait,” Niko whispered. He dropped the boat’s anchor, then stripped to his underwear, slipped on the wetsuit and flippers, and strapped on a pair of night vision goggles. The goggles were black cone shaped devices that projected six inches from his face, with a large spherical object that nestled in front of his forehead. He looked like some ancient sea chimera that had just risen from the depths to regard the surface world for the first time in eons. He’d go back to his people and say, “The surface world is ours for the taking! Nothing but one Arab in a boat.”

“Those aren’t waterproof,” I hissed.

He waved in acknowledgement, slipped carefully into the water feet first, then swam into the cave’s mouth, keeping his head above water. Ten minutes later he returned. I helped him back into the boat.

“The cave is closed,” he said. “No way to the surface.”

“Just as well. It might be guarded otherwise.”

“Is good for us,” Niko pointed out. “We can anchor the boat inside the cave. No one will see it.”

“Then how do I get to the shore?”

He made a hand gesture that said, Isn’t it obvious? “Swim.”

Right. Of course. We rowed the boat into the cave. It was a tight fit, with the sides of the boat scraping the stone. We dropped anchor, then risked turning on one of the flashlights. The cave was narrow and snaked into the interior of the island for maybe a hundred meters, with rough walls of stone rising on either side and arching overhead.

I took my antibiotics. No sense risking reinfection. If I survived, it would be nice to still have two arms. I stripped off my clothes and put on the wetsuit. My clothing, watch, goggles, flare gun and walkie talkie went into the scuba bag. It was a rubber backpack with welded seams and a rolltop seal that was completely waterproof. I strapped the scuba knife – a wickedly sharp, double-edged fixed blade with a hard plastic sheath – to my thigh, using the two straps that had come with it.

Niko slipped on his scuba pack as well.

“Hold on,” I objected. “You’re staying here.”

“No. I can see and hear nothing from here. I will not know if you are in trouble.”

I chewed my lip. He was right. “Okay. But you go only as far as the shore. Find a covered spot, hide and wait.”

We would have to swim to shore from here, which meant we’d swim out of the cave, around the base of the cliff as far as it went, and search until we found a safe access point to the interior of the island. We threw our legs over the side and prepared to drop into the tenebrous water.

“You know,” Niko remarked, “that there are sharks in these waters, yes? They will smell the blood from our injuries.”

I gave him a flat stare. “Did you have to tell me that? Do you think it helps to tell me that?”

He shrugged. “You never know with NorteAmericanos. They like to have all the facts.” He made quotation marks with his fingers. “Just the facts, ma’am.”

I rolled my eyes. If someone had entered my office last Thursday morning when I was rifling my desk drawers to find enough change to buy a piece of fruit, and told me that six days from then I’d be hiding in a dark sea cave beneath a Caribbean island, about to make a one-man assault on the private bastion of a drug cartel leader, with a suicidal Panamanian poet as my helper, I’d have laughed until my six pack cramped. If I had a six pack. Just goes to show. Never imagine you know what the future holds.

I raised my hands and said a quick dua’, asking Allah to guide my movements, protect me and Niko, protect our families, and help me to succeed in bringing Anna home. Then I dropped into the water with a splash. Niko followed, then led the way out of the cave. The water was cool but not cold. I’d been afraid that the scuba pack would weigh me down, but it was the opposite. The rubber was buoyant and helped me stay afloat.

We went slowly, parallelling the rough stone of the cave wall. Outside the cave Niko shadowed the cliff and I followed. The water become rougher and bounced me into the cliff. If not for the wetsuit I’d have been badly scraped up. As it was I was pretty sure my hip would be black and blue tomorrow. If I lived to see tomorrow.

“We have to swim out farther,” Niko urged. “Is too dangerous this close to the cliff.”

He stroked out into the ocean and I followed. About a hundred meters out he changed direction and began paralleling the island. I swam with my head up, afraid to lose sight of him. Once I thought I felt something brush my leg. Fearing it was a shark, I thrashed in panic. But Niko continued swimming and I had to follow.

I had a sudden thought: what if Niko tried to commit suicide again? What if he simply sank beneath the surface and drowned himself? I’d be alone out here, in a strange sea off the coast of an island occupied by a murderer. The thought terrified me. I stopped swimming and paddled in place, trying to control my fear. I gasped for air as if I’d been swimming underwater all this time.

Niko reached out and squeezed my shoulder. “Easy Zayn. You are doing good. We going to make it, okay?”

I nodded and followed Niko as he continued the trek. The pain in my ribs was terrible, and I feared I bright break the fractured rib altogether. There came a point when I just couldn’t swim anymore. I paddled in place, kicking my feet only, tilting my head back to keep my face above water. Thank goodness for the flippers at least. I was able to generate a lot of propulsion with my legs alone.

Suddenly Niko’s strong arm encircled my upper torso. He pulled me along with him as he swam. The irony of Niko saving me from drowning was not lost on me.

The cliff declined and became a rocky, tree-covered hillock. Niko kept on swimming. Some time later he said, “there.” I stared and could barely make out a small, sandy cove nestled between two curving spits of rock. Niko headed for it and I helped by kicking my feet. I dragged myself onto the beach, shrugged the dry pack off and lay on my back, gasping with exhaustion and relief.

Niko opened his pack and changed into street clothes, then donned night goggles and watch, slipping one of the walkie talkies into his pocket. I remained a while longer, resting.

In time I let out a low groan, sat up and proceeded to prepare. When I was fully dressed I strapped the scuba knife to my leg. I was about to slip the flare gun and walkie talkie into my pack when I had a realization. If I were caught, these items would clue my captors that I was not alone. They would search the island and possibly find Niko. Before I could reconsider, I heaved the items into the sea.

“Ay, Zayn! Why you do that?”

“Never mind. Let’s go.”

The beach was backed by a short cliff that rose to the hillock I’d seen earlier. We circumvented the cliff by climbing one of the rocky spits that encircled the beach. As soon as we reached the ridge top, which was bare of trees, we dropped to our bellies.

On the other side of the ridge the geography of the island changed dramatically. The majority of the island was covered in light forest. The side we were on was the high side. On our right, the terrain rose to the peak we’d seen earlier. Ahead of us and to the left, the land dropped in a clean sweep to the sea.

Three quarters of the way up the slope to our right, a large area had been cleared of trees. In the center rose a magnificent house, four stories tall and gleaming white, with an overhanging blue roof that sloped up to a peak. Still in a prone position, I lifted my binoculars and studied it. Each level was surrounded by a continuous veranda with a terraced wooden railing, and tall support pillars. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the house contained 20 bedrooms and covered 15,000 feet. A variety of vehicles were parked in the driveway. I saw the unmistakable contours of a white Rolls Royce and a red Lamborghini, as well as a large pickup truck and a couple of three-wheeled ATVs.

Slightly below the house, set amid terraced gardens with footpaths and fruit trees, was a swimming pool and two tennis courts. Above and behind it, I could barely make out a large black helicopter parked on a round helipad. There were also a few smaller outlying buildings done in the same style – maybe servants’ quarters, storage or some other rich-person thing that my not-wealthy, living-in-a-tiny-office mind could not conceive.

The entire compound was surrounded by a circular road and a tall, well-lit perimeter fence, with a guardhouse and a gate. Beyond the perimeter, the land around the house was cleared of vegetation to maybe a hundred meters in every direction. As I watched, a white pickup truck made a slow circuit on the perimeter road, traveling no more than five miles per hour.

I looked away from the house and waited while my eyes adjusted to the darkness. The air was alive with forest sounds. Birds called, insects whirred and sang, and frogs chirped, burped and ribbeted in an overarching chorus. Now and then a monkey hooted. I could see virtually the entire island from my vantage on the ridge. I spotted the glint of moonlight on water, and followed the line of a stream that ran east to west, down from the peak to the sea. The road from the house roughly followed the line of the stream. The narrow blacktop road, completely unlit, passed directly along the base of the ridge, just below where Niko and I lay. At the far western tip of the island a few electric lights burned dimly. I focused on that point and made out the outline of a small marina. Three boats were docked there: a white cigarette boat, a small yacht, and a much larger yacht – an impressive craft that might have been thirty five meters long. It must have cost millions.

I realized there was a flaw in our plan. Even if I managed to find Anna and escape with her, El Demonio’s men could pursue us. “Change of plans,” I whispered to Niko. “Can you disable the yachts and the boat?”

“What is jots?”

“The ships.” I pointed.

“Si, es fácil. Is easy.”

“Great. Do it, then return to this spot.” I would take care of the helicopter myself. I didn’t know helicopters from hamsters, but how hard could it be to find the engine compartment and tear out some wires?

He shrugged. “Okay.”

I checked my watch. It was 12:21 am. “Give me until 1:30,” I told Niko. “If I’m not back by then, you leave, do you understand? You return to our boat and go. There is no sense in both of us getting caught. If we both die here, no one will know where Anna is.”

Niko pursed his lips tightly, but nodded.

“Promise me.”

“You can count on me, señor Zayn.” He reached into his scuba pack and pulled out the huge silver-plated .45 caliber Colt pistol. “Take this.”

I scowled. “You weren’t supposed to bring that.”

“I should fight El Demonio with the poetry of Carlos Francisco Changmarín? Or your little clippers of fingernails that you call knives?”

“If we have to fight we’re dead already. No. Keep it, or throw it in the ocean.” I pulled Niko into a hug. “Muchas gracias mi amigo. Dios te bendiga.” I slipped on the night vision goggles, and the world sprang into focus, everything tinted green but still as clear as day. I turned and began quickly making my way through the trees toward the house. The road would have been faster, and it was tempting, but I’d be too exposed out there on the blacktop. Anyone watching would see me coming.

I carried nothing but the two small knives clipped to my pockets as usual, and the cash and documents I kept in my secret pockets. Nothing that would slow me down or – if I was caught – reveal that I was not alone.

Wednesday, February 9, 2010 – 12:21 midnight
Ougadiri Island, Panama

On any other day, under any other circumstances, I might have found a night-time run through a rainforest while wearing infrared goggles to be fascinating. Fruit bats darted among the trees, feasting on ripe mangos and bananas. A large, hopping rodent of some kind scattered through the undergrowth as I approached. An armadillo waddled out of my way, as did an opossum. A sloth hanging in a tree turned its head indolently to watch me pass.

Right now, my only concern was getting to the house as quickly and quietly as possible. I also considered that the forest might be booby-trapped. As I ran I watched for telltale signs such as tripwires or snares. That was probably just my imagination running away with me. After all, wouldn’t booby traps be set off by wildlife? It would be a hassle to have to investigate every time a capybara set off a landmine and created a rain of capybara burger.

Fifteen minutes later I hit the edge of the clearing around the house. I kneeled in the trees and studied the house as my breathing gradually slowed. It was worse than I’d expected. The guard house was staffed by two men. On each level of the house proper, armed men carrying assault weapons patrolled the veranda. I didn’t see how I could get over, under or through the fence without being seen. But that didn’t mean I wouldn’t try.

Staying in the trees, I circled to my left, picking my way carefully northeast and uphill. The patrol vehicle rolled by and I saw there were two men in it. I moved around the tennis courts and swimming pool until I reached the portion of forest that faced the helipad at the back of the house. The guards on the verandas still patrolled – the verandas went all the way around the house – and I saw now that there were two men on each veranda. Counting the two men in the patrol vehicle, that was ten armed guards I’d seen already. And who knows how many more in the house. But at least the guardhouse could not see me.

I began belly-crawling across the open space toward the fence. I moved slowly, sliding one limb forward at a time. The night vision goggles kept bumping into clumps of grass, and I wished I’d taken them off first. The patrol car cruised past on the perimeter road and I saw that it was manned by a single driver smoking a cigarette.

I knew that Niko would leave in an hour and I felt the need for speed, but if I hurried and got sloppy I’d be dead. I was one hundred percent sure those guards would shoot first and ask questions later.

Something crawled up my pants leg and bit me on the calf. The pain was immediate and intense. Some small sound I made caught the attention of one of the guards, a tall, broad-shouldered man on the second level who wore black slacks, a black dress-shirt and a black cowboy hat – the stereotypical uniform of the bad guy, as if his clothing choice was determined by watching too many Mexican westerns. He stopped pacing and peered in my direction. I froze, not daring to breathe. The man leaned over the veranda railing, staring in my direction. With the night vision goggles I could see him clear as crystal. He was looking right at me. I reminded myself that he could not see me as well as I saw him. Still, my heart thudded so hard I was afraid he’d hear it. Any second I expected him to raise his rifle and send a volley of bullets crashing into me.

About ten meters upslope from where I lay, a white-tailed deer exited the forest and picked its way daintily across the clearing, pausing to graze on something tasty that grew there. It ate, then darted back to the safety of the trees to chew its cud.

The guard, apparently deciding it was the deer he’d heard, resumed his patrol. I took a long, quiet breath and let it out, and resumed my crawl. When I finally reached the fence, my heart sank. The fence was humming in that barely audible, hair-raising way that indicated a strong electric current. The helicopter stood just on the other side. I suddenly had the thought that even if Niko left without me, if I could find Anna we could escape in the helicopter.

It was an idiotic thought, of course. I didn’t know how to pilot a helicopter, and anyway there was no getting over or through this fence. The helicopter might as well be a thousand miles away.

What about digging? All I had were a pair of pocket knives. To burrow beneath this fence would take hours, and there was no way I could do it covertly. As soon as the patrol car came around I’d be seen in a second. Plus, I had no idea how deep the fence went.

What if I snuck up on the guard house, attacked the guards – disabling or killing them – and took their weapons? Then I could assault the house.

Except that I was sure there were more guards inside, not to mention the security vehicle and the guards on the verandas, which meant I was hopelessly outnumbered. Even if I’d taken Niko’s pistol it would be hopeless. I wasn’t Rambo.

I lay there, thinking furiously. There had to be a way in. There was always a way, right? But no. That was Hollywood hero thinking, not real life. Pursing my lips in frustration, forcing myself to relax, I slithered my way back to the treeline, then traced my route back to the front of the house. Again I dropped my belly and crawled this time toward the guardhouse, ignoring the steadily worsening pain in my right side. The guardhouse had windows in front and on the side, facing the road. I approached from the other side, moving very, very slowly. I had no plan. I just thought if I got close enough, maybe I could find a way in.

It took me twenty minutes to cross that space. I checked my watch: 1:15 am. I had only fifteen minutes left until Niko departed. So that was a write off. Niko would leave without me. I would have to find some other way off the island.

I lay there within five feet of the guardhouse, separated only by the fence. I could hear the two guards talking, but couldn’t make out the words. Now what? I thought furiously. Maybe I could throw a stone outside the gate. When the guards opened the gate to investigate, I could rush them and… and what? Kill them? Disable them somehow? They were armed with assault rifles. As for me, I was grimy, insect bitten, exhausted, and my various wounds ached so much I could hardly think. What chance did I have?

For just a moment a wave of self-pity broke over me, threatening to drown me. Why did everything have to be so difficult? Why had nothing ever come easy in my life? Why did I have to fight, fight, fight for every step forward, for even the simple things that fell into the laps of others like birthday gifts? Why was my life such a failure? Why had I lost everything that ever mattered, from my freedom to my family to the respect of my community?

Then, just as suddenly as the self-pity had done, a bonfire of savage determination rose in me. No, I thought fiercely. I have not lost everything that mattered. I have my faith in Allah, and that is the supernova of all blessings. It is the lighted path in the depth of night, the bright sword that cuts down falsehood, and the only weapon I will ever need. So what if money and degrees come easy to some others? Maybe those people are weak, and Allah knows that, and has mercy on them so as not to break them. Maybe they are tested in other ways that I cannot not see.

But me, I’m a fighter, and Allah knows that too. I don’t surrender. I don’t quit. For those who have no courage to man the wall against tyranny and evil, step aside and let the ones who can do it, do it. I am one of those with the courage to stand up. I am capable of bearing the burden. So who am I to complain when the burden should in fact fall on my back?

I thought these thoughts, and a sense of calm flowed through me like water from the sacred well of Zamzam. I was not responsible for the result here tonight. I was only responsible for the effort. It fell to me to be utterly sincere with Allah and with myself. Whatever Allah wanted to happen would happen.

As for the guards, yes, I would kill them if necessary. I couldn’t afford to think of these men as innocents. They were holding Anna in that house. I had no mercy in my heart for kidnappers and abusers of children. I would do what I must. I felt around until I found a small, round stone. I closed my fingers over it. I would chuck the stone to create a distraction, and as soon as the gate opened I would charge the armies of doom themselves if need be.

I pulled back my arm to throw.

* * *

Next: Chapter 16: Crater Valley

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

Wael Abdelgawad’s novel, Pieces of a Dream, is available on

My September 11 Muslim Story

altmuslim - 11 September, 2017 - 20:10
It has now been sixteen years since the 9/11 attacks, and as a Muslim American, each year I mourn the endless amount of violence that my communities have experienced not just at the hands of the state, but from society at large.

The Glorious Virtues of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa

Muslim Matters - 11 September, 2017 - 18:35

When speaking about Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa the third holiest sight in Islam, many Muslims are familiar with the hadith of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) as reported by Bukhari and Muslim

وَعَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ اَلْخُدْرِيِّ ‏- رضى الله عنه ‏- قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ ‏- صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏-: { لَا تُشَدُّ اَلرِّحَالُ إِلَّا إِلَى ثَلَاثَةِ مَسَاجِدَ: اَلْمَسْجِدِ اَلْحَرَامِ, وَمَسْجِدِي هَذَا, وَالْمَسْجِدِ اَلْأَقْصَى } مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْهِ 1‏

“One should not undertake journeys except to three mosques: al-Masque al-Haram (in Makkah), this Masjid of mine (in Medinah) and Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem)

And so this hadith restricts the undertaking of religious pilgrimages or religious journeys to any masjid other than these three. In the past two weeks you’ve heard about Al-Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca, and Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi, what then about Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa makes it special?

A few qualities about Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa:

Firstly, it is in Al-Shaam.

And this is unique and something that is not shared by Al-Masjid Al-Haram and Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi in that although those places in and of themselves are incredibly blessed, Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa is not just blessed in and of itself, but it is in a region that is blessed, that region being al-Shaam.

Al-Sham (Greater Syria) is bordered by the Euphrates River on the northeast and by Egypt on the southwest. Al-Shaam is the region that includes the modern day countries of Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and there are many verses and hadith that mention that it is a blessed land. Its major cities are Damascus, Jerusalem, Nabulus, Homs, Hemah, Halab, Amman, Beirut, Askalan, Gaza, Saida; Sur, Tripoli, Ba’labek, Manbij and Al-Ma’rah. Al-Sham is a vast land with an abundance of blessings. It is full of gardens, farms and fields. Fruits are abundant and cheap, and there is generous rain and snow. Al-Sham is a blessed and sacred land that Allah destined to be the place of revelations, the birthplace of prophets and a refuge for godly men.

Allah says,

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ

Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing. (Al-Isra v. 1)

And so here Allah mentions that not only is the Masjid Al-Aqsa blessed but it’s surroundings have been blessed and this is unique to this land of Al-Shaam.

It being blessed is mentioned in a number of other verses, of them are;

وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ وَلُوطًا إِلَى الأَرْضِ الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا لِلْعَالَمِينَ [الأنبياء:71]

And We delivered him and Lot to the land which We had blessed for the worlds.

Ibn Taymiyyah said “it is known that Allah delivered Ibrahim and Lot to Al-Shaam from the lands of the peninsula and Iraq.”

And as for Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) Allah says,

وَأَوْرَثْنَا الْقَوْمَ الَّذِينَ كَانُوا يُسْتَضْعَفُونَ مَشَارِقَ الأَرْضِ وَمَغَارِبَهَا الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا

And We caused the people who had been oppressed to inherit the eastern regions of the land and the western ones, which We had blessed. (Al-A’raaf v. 137)

Al-Hassan and Qatadah both said, “It is Al-Shaam”

يَا قَوْمِ ادْخُلُوا الأَرْضَ الْمُقَدَّسَةَ الَّتِي كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَلا تَرْتَدُّوا عَلَى أَدْبَارِكُمْ فَتَنْقَلِبُوا خَاسِرِينَ [المائدة:21]

O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back [from fighting in Allah ‘s cause] and [thus] become losers.

And the Kingdom of Sulayman was in Al-Shaam

وَلِسُلَيْمَانَ الرِّيحَ عَاصِفَةً تَجْرِي بِأَمْرِهِ إِلَى الأَرْضِ الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا وَكُنَّا بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَالِمِينَ [الأنبياء:81]

And to Solomon [We subjected] the wind, blowing forcefully, proceeding by his command toward the land which We had blessed. And We are ever, of all things, Knowing.

وَجَعَلْنَا بَيْنَهُمْ وَبَيْنَ الْقُرَى الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا قُرًى ظَاهِرَةً وَقَدَّرْنَا فِيهَا السَّيْرَ سِيرُوا فِيهَا لَيَالِيَ وَأَيَّامًا آمِنِينَ [سبأ:18]

And We placed between them and the cities which We had blessed [many] visible cities. And We determined between them the [distances of] journey, [saying], “Travel between them by night or day in safety

Ibn Abbas, Qatadah and Mujahid all mentioned that the land mentioned in this verse is Al-Shaam.

Some manifestations of the blessings of Al-Shaam

As we read the hadith that speak about the virtues of Al-Shaam it is important to note that this all falls under the realm of prophecy. The prophet (ﷺ) was not speaking about a land that had fallen under his authority during his lifetime, in fact the Muslim armies did not begin to conquer Al-Shaam until the time of ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab, yet the amount of praise and blessings accorded to this land indicates that Al-Shaam would not only become Muslim but a pillar of Islam until the day of Judgment.

Firstly, the angels extending their wings over Al-Shaam عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ ثَابِتٍ، قَالَ كُنَّا عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم نُؤَلِّفُ الْقُرْآنَ مِنَ الرِّقَاعِ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ طُوبَى لِلشَّأْمِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَقُلْنَا لأَىٍّ ذَلِكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ ‏”‏ لأَنَّ مَلاَئِكَةَ الرَّحْمَنِ بَاسِطَةٌ أَجْنِحَتَهَا عَلَيْهَا ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ غَرِيبٌ إِنَّمَا نَعْرِفُهُ مِنْ حَدِيثِ يَحْيَى بْنِ أَيُّوبَ

Zaid ibn Thabit Narrates, “We were with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) collecting the Qur’an on pieces of cloth, then the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘Tuba is for Ash-Sham.’ So we said: ‘Why is that O Messenger of Allah?’ He said: ‘Because the angels of Ar-Rahman spread their wings over it.'” (Tirmithi)

And Toobaa is a prayer for glad tidings. Al-’Izz ibn Abdisalaam said, “The prophet (ﷺ) indicated that Allah had designated angels to protect and preserve Al-Shaam.”

Secondly, It is the chosen land of God


عَنِ ابْنِ حَوَالَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ سَيَصِيرُ الأَمْرُ إِلَى أَنْ تَكُونُوا جُنُودًا مُجَنَّدَةً جُنْدٌ بِالشَّامِ وَجُنْدٌ بِالْيَمَنِ وَجُنْدٌ بِالْعِرَاقِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ ابْنُ حَوَالَةَ خِرْ لِي يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنْ أَدْرَكْتُ ذَلِكَ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ عَلَيْكَ بِالشَّامِ فَإِنَّهَا خِيَرَةُ اللَّهِ مِنْ أَرْضِهِ يَجْتَبِي إِلَيْهَا خِيَرَتَهُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ فَأَمَّا إِنْ أَبَيْتُمْ فَعَلَيْكُمْ بِيَمَنِكُمْ وَاسْقُوا مِنْ غُدُرِكُمْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَكَّلَ لِي بِالشَّامِ وَأَهْلِهِ


The Prophet (ﷺ) said: It will turn out that you will be armed troops, one in Al-Shaam, one in the Yemen and one in Iraq. Ibn Hawalah said: Choose for me, Messenger of Allah, if I reach that time. He replied: Go to Al-Shaam, for it is Allah’s chosen land, to which his best servants will be gathered, but if you are unwilling, go to your Yemen, and draw water from your tanks, for Allah has on my account taken special charge of Al-Shaam and its people. (Abu Dawood, Authenticated by Al-Abaani)

Thirdly, The Pillar of the Book (ie Faith) was placed in Al-Shaam عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ حَوَالَةَ ، قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” رَأَيْتُ لَيْلَةَ أُسْرِيَ بِي عَمُودًا أَبْيَضَ كَأَنَّهُ لُؤْلُؤَةٌ تَحْمِلُهُ الْمَلائِكَةُ ، فَقُلْتُ : مَا تَحْمِلُونَ ؟ فَقَالُوا : عَمُودُ الإِسْلامِ ، أُمِرْنَا أَنْ نَضَعَهُ بِالشَّامِ ، وَبَيْنَا أَنَا نَائِمٌ رَأَيْتُ عَمُودَ الْكِتَابِ اخْتُلِسَ مِنْ تَحْتِ رَأْسِي ، فَظَنَنْتُ أَنَّ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى قَدْ تَخَلَّى مِنْ أَهْلِ الأَرْضِ ، فَأَتْبَعْتُهُ بَصَرِي وَإِذَا هُوَ نُورٌ سَاطِعٌ بَيْنَ يَدِي حَتَّى وُضِعَ بِالشَّامِ ” ، فَقَالَ ابْنُ حَوَالَةَ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ، خِرْ لِي . فَقَالَ : ” عَلَيْكَ بِالشَّامِ

I saw the night of my Isra a white pillar as if it were of pearl being carried by the angels, I said, “What are you carrying?” They said, “The pillar of Islam, and we were commanded to place it in Al-Shaam. And while I was sleep I saw the pillar of the book taken from underneath my head, and so I thought that Allah had takhala from the people of the world, and so I followed it with my sight and it was a bright light in front of me until it was placed in Al-Shaam. Ibn Hawala then said, “Oh Messenger of Allah, choose for me! He said, “Upon you is Al-Shaam.” Reported by Ibn Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq and authenticated by Ibn Hajr in Fath Al-Bari.

In another version reported by Al-Tabari in his tafsir the prophet (ﷺ) said,

رَأَيْتُ فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنَّهُمْ أَخَذُوا عَمُودَ الْكِتَابِ فَعَمَدُوا بِهِ إِلَى الشَّامِ، فَإِذَا وَقَعَتِ الْفِتْنَةُ فَالْأَمْنُ بِالشَّامِ

While I was alseep I saw that they had taken the pillar of the book and carried it to Al-Shaam, so when fitan (trials) touch down, faith will be in Al-Shaam.

Al-Haakim said, “This is a authentic hadith upon the conditions of the two shaykhs (Bukhari and Muslim) and Al-Dhahabi agreed. Al-Izz ibn Abdissalaam defined “The Pillar of the Book” to be “Iman” or faith. 

Fourthly, the Prophet (ﷺ) prayed for it to be blessed عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ، قَالَ ذَكَرَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِي شَأْمِنَا، اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِي يَمَنِنَا ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالُوا وَفِي نَجْدِنَا‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِي شَأْمِنَا، اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِي يَمَنِنَا ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَفِي نَجْدِنَا فَأَظُنُّهُ قَالَ فِي الثَّالِثَةَ ‏”‏ هُنَاكَ الزَّلاَزِلُ وَالْفِتَنُ، وَبِهَا يَطْلُعُ قَرْنُ الشَّيْطَانِ

Ibn ‘Umar reports that

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “O Allah! Bestow Your blessings on our Sham! O Allah! Bestow Your blessings on our Yemen.” The People said, “And also on our Najd.” He said, “O Allah! Bestow Your blessings on our Sham (north)! O Allah! Bestow Your blessings on our Yemen.” The people said, “O Allah’s Apostle! And also on our Najd.” I think the third time the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “There (in Najd) is the place of earthquakes and afflictions and from there comes out the side of the head of Satan.” (Bukhari)

Fifthly, Al-Shaam is a yardstick for the righteousness of the ummah

عَنْ مُعَاوِيَةَ بْنِ قُرَّةَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ إِذَا فَسَدَ أَهْلُ الشَّامِ فَلاَ خَيْرَ فِيكُمْ

Ma’awiyyah ibn Qurrah reports from His father that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said,

“When the inhabitants of Ash-Sham become corrupt, then there is no good in you.”

(Recorded by Al-Tirmithi who graded it a Hassan Sahih hadith).

Sixthly, Al-Shaam will host a group of people unwavering upon the truth قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عُمَيْرُ بْنُ هَانِئٍ، أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ مُعَاوِيَةَ، يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ لاَ يَزَالُ مِنْ أُمَّتِي أُمَّةٌ قَائِمَةٌ بِأَمْرِ اللَّهِ، لاَ يَضُرُّهُمْ مَنْ خَذَلَهُمْ وَلاَ مَنْ خَالَفَهُمْ حَتَّى يَأْتِيَهُمْ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ وَهُمْ عَلَى ذَلِكَ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَ عُمَيْرٌ فَقَالَ مَالِكُ بْنُ يُخَامِرَ قَالَ مُعَاذٌ وَهُمْ بِالشَّأْمِ‏.‏ فَقَالَ مُعَاوِيَةُ هَذَا مَالِكٌ يَزْعُمُ أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ مُعَاذًا يَقُولُ وَهُمْ بِالشَّامِ

‘Umayr ibn Hani stated that he heard Mu’awiyyah says,

“I heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, “A group of people amongst my followers will remain obedient to Allah’s orders and they will not be harmed by anyone who will not help them or who will oppose them, till Allah’s Order (the Last Day) comes upon them while they are still on the right path.”

‘Umayr said, Malik ibn Yukhamir said, “Mu’adh said, ‘they are in Al-Shaam”

Seventhly: It is a land of many martyrs أتاني جبريل بالحمى والطاعون فأمسكت الحمى بالمدينة وأرسلت الطاعون إلى الشام، فالطاعون شهادة لأمتي ورحمة لهم ورجس على الكافرين‏

“Jibreel came to me with (carrying) fever and plague. Fever was kept in Medina and Plague was sent to Al-Shaam. Plague is martyrdom for my ummah and mercy and wrath upon the disbelievers. (Ahmad, authenticated by Al-Albani in Sahih Al-Targhib wal Tarhib)

And so plague has touched the region of Al-Shaam many times over from the dawn of Islam as early as the army of Abu ‘Ubaydah ibn Al-Jarrah in 638-639 AD in two waves and it is accounted that 25,000 soldiers died of that plague, of them Mu’adh ibn Jabal, his son Abdulrahman and Abu Ubaydah ibn Al-Jarrah himself. The Middle East Black Death epidemic in which it is reported that around 10,000 people died in Gaza between April 10 and May 10 1348. Plagues that affected the crusaders and cholera outbreaks over the past two centuries among others.

 The Virtues of Al- Masjid Al-Aqsa It is the second masjid ever built عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ‏.‏ أَىُّ مَسْجِدٍ وُضِعَ أَوَّلُ قَالَ ‏”‏ الْمَسْجِدُ الْحَرَامُ ‏”‏‏.‏ قُلْتُ ثُمَّ أَىٌّ قَالَ ‏”‏ ثُمَّ الْمَسْجِدُ الأَقْصَى ‏”‏‏.‏ قُلْتُ كَمْ كَانَ بَيْنَهُمَا قَالَ ‏”‏ أَرْبَعُونَ ‏”‏‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏”‏ حَيْثُمَا أَدْرَكَتْكَ الصَّلاَةُ فَصَلِّ، وَالأَرْضُ لَكَ مَسْجِدٌ

Narrated Abu Dhaar:

I said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Which mosque was built first?” He replied, “Al-Masjid-ul-Haram.” I asked, “Which (was built) next?” He replied, “Al-Masjid-ul-Aqs-a (i.e. Jerusalem).” I asked, “What was the period in between them?” He replied, “Forty (years).” He then added, “Wherever the time for the prayer comes upon you, perform the prayer, for all the earth is a place of worshipping for you.”

Although it’s commonly considered that Ibrahim and Sulayman are the ones who built those masjids respectively, this hadith becomes difficult to resolve when there was more than a thousand years between them! Ibn Hajar mentions a number of positions on who built Al-Ka’abah and Bayt Al-Maqdis he says,

Adam built Al-Ka’abah and then his children built Al-Aqsa

Ibrahim built Al-Ka’abah and then he built Al-Aqsa so he built both

Ibrahim built the Ka’abah and Ya’qoob his grandson built Al-Aqsa and Sulayman rebuilt the Aqsa

It is where the prophets intended and migrated to:

It is where Abraham and Lot migrated to, it is where Moses intended to take Bani Israel

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ أُرْسِلَ مَلَكُ الْمَوْتِ إِلَى مُوسَى ـ عَلَيْهِمَا السَّلاَمُ ـ فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُ صَكَّهُ، فَرَجَعَ إِلَى رَبِّهِ، فَقَالَ أَرْسَلْتَنِي إِلَى عَبْدٍ لاَ يُرِيدُ الْمَوْتَ‏.‏ قَالَ ارْجِعْ إِلَيْهِ، فَقُلْ لَهُ يَضَعُ يَدَهُ عَلَى مَتْنِ ثَوْرٍ، فَلَهُ بِمَا غَطَّتْ يَدُهُ بِكُلِّ شَعَرَةٍ سَنَةٌ‏.‏ قَالَ أَىْ رَبِّ، ثُمَّ مَاذَا قَالَ ثُمَّ الْمَوْتُ‏.‏ قَالَ فَالآنَ‏.‏ قَالَ فَسَأَلَ اللَّهَ أَنْ يُدْنِيَهُ مِنَ الأَرْضِ الْمُقَدَّسَةِ رَمْيَةً بِحَجَرٍ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ لَوْ كُنْتُ ثَمَّ لأَرَيْتُكُمْ قَبْرَهُ إِلَى جَانِبِ الطَّرِيقِ تَحْتَ الْكَثِيبِ الأَحْمَرِ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَ وَأَخْبَرَنَا مَعْمَرٌ عَنْ هَمَّامٍ حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم نَحْوَهُ‏

The Angel of Death was sent to Moses when he came to Moses, Moses slapped him on the eye. The angel returned to his Lord and said, “You have sent me to a Slave who does not want to die.” Allah said, “Return to him and tell him to put his hand on the back of an ox and for every hair that will come under it, he will be granted one year of life.” Moses said, “O Lord! What will happen after that?” Allah replied, “Then death.” Moses said, “Let it come now.” Moses then requested Allah to let him die close to the Sacred Land so much so that he would be at a distance of a stone’s throw from it.” Abu Huraira added, “Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, ‘If I were there, I would show you his grave below the red sand hill on the side of the road.” (Bukhari)

The Sun stood still for the Conquest of Jerusalem عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ غَزَا نَبِيٌّ مِنَ الأَنْبِيَاءِ فَقَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ لاَ يَتْبَعْنِي رَجُلٌ مَلَكَ بُضْعَ امْرَأَةٍ وَهْوَ يُرِيدُ أَنْ يَبْنِيَ بِهَا وَلَمَّا يَبْنِ بِهَا، وَلاَ أَحَدٌ بَنَى بُيُوتًا وَلَمْ يَرْفَعْ سُقُوفَهَا، وَلاَ أَحَدٌ اشْتَرَى غَنَمًا أَوْ خَلِفَاتٍ وَهْوَ يَنْتَظِرُ وِلاَدَهَا‏.‏ فَغَزَا فَدَنَا مِنَ الْقَرْيَةِ صَلاَةَ الْعَصْرِ أَوْ قَرِيبًا مِنْ ذَلِكَ فَقَالَ لِلشَّمْسِ إِنَّكِ مَأْمُورَةٌ وَأَنَا مَأْمُورٌ، اللَّهُمَّ احْبِسْهَا عَلَيْنَا‏.‏ فَحُبِسَتْ، حَتَّى فَتَحَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A prophet amongst the prophets carried out a holy military expedition, so he said to his followers, ‘Anyone who has married a woman and wants to consummate the marriage, and has not done so yet, should not accompany me; nor should a man who has built a house but has not completed its roof; nor a man who has sheep or shecamels and is waiting for the birth of their young ones.’ So, the prophet carried out the expedition and when he reached that town at the time or nearly at the time of the `Asr prayer, he said to the sun, ‘O sun! You are under Allah’s Order and I am under Allah’s Order O Allah! Stop it (i.e. the sun) from setting.’ (Bukhari)

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ، قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” مَا حُبِسَتِ الشَّمْسُ عَلَى بَشَرٍ قَطُّ إِلا عَلَى يُوشَعَ بْنِ نُونَ لَيَالِي سَارَ إِلَى بَيْتِ الْمَقْدِسِ

The sun has never stopped for any man besides Yusha bin Noon when he when he was campaigning to conquer Bayt al-Maqdis.” (Ahmed)

Bayt Al-Maqdis is the abode of the prophets.

It is the abode of Ya’qoob and the prayer place of Dawood, and the prayer place of Mary, and the abode of Sulayman and Zakariyyah, John the Baptist and Jesus.

The Prayer of Sulayman عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ قَالَ ‏”‏ لَمَّا فَرَغَ سُلَيْمَانُ بْنُ دَاوُدَ مِنْ بِنَاءِ بَيْتِ الْمَقْدِسِ سَأَلَ اللَّهَ ثَلاَثًا حُكْمًا يُصَادِفُ حُكْمَهُ وَمُلْكًا لاَ يَنْبَغِي لأَحَدٍ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ وَأَلاَّ يَأْتِيَ هَذَا الْمَسْجِدَ أَحَدٌ لاَ يُرِيدُ إِلاَّ الصَّلاَةَ فِيهِ إِلاَّ خَرَجَ مِنْ ذُنُوبِهِ كَيَوْمَ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ ‏”‏ أَمَّا اثْنَتَانِ فَقَدْ أُعْطِيَهُمَا وَأَرْجُو أَنْ يَكُونَ قَدْ أُعْطِيَ الثَّالِثَةَ


Abdullah Ibn Amr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reports that the prophet (ﷺ) said,

“When Sulaiman bin Dawud finished building Baitil-Maqdis, he asked Allah for three things: judgment that was in harmony with His judgment, a dominion that no one after him would have, and that no one should come to this mosque, intending only to pray there, but he would emerge free of sin as the day his mother bore him.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Two prayers were granted, and I hope that the third was also granted.” (Ibn Majah, Authentic)

It is the first Qiblah

The prophet (ﷺ) for the entire time that he was in Mecca and the first 16 months that he was in Medinah would pray towards Jerusalem. And so while he was in Medinah he would pray with his back towards Mecca. This was until Allah revealed the verses in Surat Al- Baqarah.

Originally that Qiblah was the dome of the rock itself, and when Jerusalem surrendered in the year 15 H to the forces of Umar ibn Al-Khattab and Umar himself arrived he saw the Masjid and at that time it was ruin. He said, “Allahu Akbar, by the One in whose Hand is my soul, this is the masjid of David that the prophet (S) told us he was taken on a nights journey to.” He then told Ka’b Al-Ahbar do you know where the place of the rock is? He informed him and said dig there and you will find it, at the time it was a dump. When it was excavated or found Ka’b suggested to Umar that the masjid be placed behind the wall so that the two Qiblahs would merge and ‘Umar rebuked him for that and built the masjid in front of the rock.

The Prophet (ﷺ) was taken on a Night’s journey there.

The scholars mentioned that of the wisdoms on why the prophet (S) was taken to Bayt Al-Maqdis was to establish proof against the polytheists and those who doubted him. Meaning that if the prophet (ﷺ) had simply ascended to the heavens from Mecca there would have been no way for them to test his truthfulness. However when he claimed that he had traveled to Jerusalem, they asked him to describe to them Bayt Al-Maqdis, a place that they were familiar with due to their trade and travels. They also knew that the Messenger (ﷺ) had never been there and so when he was able to describe in detail Bayt Al-Maqdis it established the truthfulness of his claim, and if they were to believe him in that they would also believe in him traveling to the heavens.

Also, Bayt Al-Maqdis is the migratory point of the prophets and the first of the two Qiblahs and the second of the two masjids built and Allah took the prophet (ﷺ) there to honor him by having him pray in both places.

Prayers are Multiplied عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ ، قَالَ : تَذَاكَرْنَا وَنَحْنُ عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، أَيُّهُمَا أَفْضَلُ : أَمَسْجِدُ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَمْ بَيْتُ الْمَقْدِسِ ؟ ، فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” صَلاةٌ فِي مَسْجِدِي أَفْضَلُ مِنْ أَرْبَعِ صَلَوَاتٍ فِيهِ وَلَنِعْمَ الْمُصَلَّى هُوَ , وَلَيُوشِكَنَّ لأَنْ يَكُونَ لِلرَّجُلِ مِثْلُ شَطَنِ فَرَسِهِ مِنَ الأَرْضِ حَيْثُ يَرَى مِنْهُ بَيْتَ الْمَقْدِسِ خَيْرًا لَهُ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا جَمِيعًا ” ، قَالَ : أَوْ قَالَ : ” خَيْرٌ لَهُ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا وَمَا فِيهَا

Abu Dhar mentions we were discussing in the presence of the prophet (S) which Masjid was better, the Masjid of the prophet (S) or Bayt Al-Maqdis. He, (S), said, “A prayer in my masjid is better than four prayers there, and what an excellent prayer place it is, and there may come a time when a person having the size of a rope of land from which they can see Bayt Al-Maqdis is more beloved to them then the entire world.” Or he said, “the world and everything in it.” Reported by Al-Hakim which an authentic chain.

But this also alludes to something which we will close with and that is there will come a time when if a person had just a little bit of space in Al-Quds with a view of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa. It would be so beloved to them. These are some of the virtues of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, there is more to be said about the Masjid and Al-Shaam in general especially when it comes to the End of Days as much of what was described of battles near the end of days, the return of Jesus Christ and the killing of the AntiChrist, as well as Gog and Magog who meet their demise in Al-Shaam.

What we ask for is to be allowed to pray in this Masjid, and be able to visit it and be a part of those who work towards freeing it and it’s people.


What is Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa; it is not just the dome of the rock and it’s not just just the masjid itself it’s the entire prayer complex. That is all Al-masjid Al-Aqsa as mentioned by the scholars in the past and present.

Is it a Haram? No it is not a Haram, and it is not correct to call it the third Haram. A Haram is a place in which hunting and plucking of fruits is haram, and there is nothing to that effect in Al-Aqsa.

Is there anything special that is done there? It is like Masjid Al-Nabawi in that sense, there is nothing that is done there other than what is normally done in a Masjid.

Is there anything virtuous to be done at the Dome of the Rock? Ibn Taymiyyah writes about the ‘Dome’ that it was not prayed at by Umar or the companions, nor did any of the rightly guided khulafa build a dome over it. It was uncovered before, during the time of Umar, Uthman, Ali, Ma’awiyyah, Yazeed and Murwan, but when Abd Al-Malik took over Al-Shaam and he had his fitnah between him and Ibn Al-Zubayr people would go to perform the hajj and would meet with Ibn Al-Zubayr. AbdulMalik wanted to divert people away from Ibn Al-Zubayr, so he built the dome over the rock. As for the people of knowledge from the sahaah and tabi’een they did not exhalt the dome of the rock, it is a abrogated qiblah, just like Saturday was a holiday in the law of Mose and now Friday is the holiday in the law of Muhammad and so it is not persmissible for Muslims to specifiy Saturday or Sunday with any acts of worship as the Jews or Christians do.

A call to action:

A hadith that is controversial in its authenticity


عَنْ مَيْمُونَةَ، مَوْلاَةِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنَّهَا قَالَتْ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَفْتِنَا فِي بَيْتِ الْمَقْدِسِ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ ائْتُوهُ فَصَلُّوا فِيهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ – وَكَانَتِ الْبِلاَدُ إِذْ ذَاكَ حَرْبًا – فَإِنْ لَمْ تَأْتُوهُ وَتُصَلُّوا فِيهِ فَابْعَثُوا بِزَيْتٍ يُسْرَجُ فِي قَنَادِيلِهِ

Narrated Maymunah ibn Sa’d:

I said: Messenger of Allah, tell us the legal injunction about (visiting) Bayt al-Muqaddas (the dome of the Rock at Jerusalem). The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: go and pray there. All the cities at that time were effected by war. If you cannot visit it and pray there, then send some oil to be used in the lamps.

Weak, Abu Dawood

(This hadith was authenticated by Al-Hafidh Al-Iraqi, Al-Tahawi and Al-Nawawi and declared weak by Al-Albani).

Though this hadith may not be authentic the meaning that it carries is one that we should internalize and that is that if a person is never able to make it to Bayt-Al-Maqdis that they act to serve it still in whatever capacity they can. And there are many ways that a person can serve Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa; communicating what is happening there to others, visiting the Masjid, supporting the people of Al-Aqsa especially those who are protecting the Masjid and praying there, as well as praying for them regularly in your own supplications,











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