28 September 2008

Damascus Bomb

Damascus, 27 September 2008, 27 Ramadan 1429
Saturday- 10:31am

I was just woken up by a frantic call from my brother in South Africa.
‘Are you ok? What happened?’
Dude! Relax, I am still sleeping. Was up the whole night, trying to find Laylatul Qadr (The Night of Power), and I’m just really tired.
‘We just heard about the bomb blast in Damascus. News doesn’t have many details and we wanted to check if you’re alright. Let us know what’s happening hey.’

My phone has a few messages already and as I end my brother’s call it rings again. If you’re reading this anywhere else in the world- where there are no restrictions and censorship on the internet and media- then chances are you probably have more details on the story than those of us here in Damascus.

All I could find out is that a car laden with explosives was detonated near the airport, and 17 people are dead and 14 more injured. There was something else about it being near a Shia shrine, but I can’t find any more about that. I think the gravesite of Sayidinna Zainub R.A is close to the airport, so that is perhaps the shrine mentioned.

If you are able to find out any more details, please let us know. I will just take this opportunity to describe Damascus over the past few hours.

Woke up around the same time yesterday and prayed Jumah Salaah at the Abu Noor Musjid. The Musjid is in an area called Ruknudeen, on the foot of the mountain, in a fairly old part of the city. Ruknudeen is supposedly the more religious corner of the city (even though the dirt and behaviour in the streets might lead you to think otherwise) and the Abu Noor Musjid also houses a religious school and an Arabic language centre.

At the end of the Jumah Sermon, the khatib went on to speak about the President. After only 3 months of living here I may have missed a bit, but I did get his message loud and clear. He spoke about how the President is doing so much to help and protect Islam, about how he is supporting the scholars of Damascus, and then he made a prayer asking God to bless the President and the government. I only plan to leave this country in 3 months, so I will not comment on this right now.

I usually pray Taraweeh Salaah in a different Musjid every night. Not all the Masaajid complete the entire Quran during the month, so we have been doing additional prayers at my apartment after Taraweeh. Last night I went to Jamia Lalabasha for Esha and Taraweeh. Being the 27th night of Ramadan, the Musjid was packed to full capacity- my friend joked in his thick Spanish accent: ‘Wow, this looks like it’s a Backstreet Boys concert or something!’ His comment was aimed at the madding crowds trying to fight their way into the Musjid and was in no way meant to be disrespectful.

There is only so much concentration one can have in prayer, when there are multiple elbows sticking into all your sides. Hence began our Musjid crawl for widely perceived Laylatul Qadr- Night of Power. Our next stop was Jamia Abu Noor where the air conditioners were slightly more effective and the crowd slightly less desperate to fight to pray. Stayed for as long as possible and then headed back to my apartment to meet the boys and drop a few.

Jamia Badr was where everybody was heading for the 2am rendezvous- with God, not each other. But it was literally everyone, so when we got there we couldn’t even find space on the grass or pavement outside. So an hour later we’re walking on the streets of Damascus, towards the beautiful recitation of Quran in the distance.

This Musjid (Hadikat Tishreen) was also packed to capacity, but the space outside, around the Musjid was more open and less chaotic. We managed to find pavement space and joined a few rakaats. The powerful voice of the Imaam had everyone around me sobbing and tears, but there was something about the traffic on my right that just didn’t allow me to reach the same spiritual heights. I tried though.

When the knees had enough of the pavement, we headed back to Jamia Badr to seek a spot of grass. Managed to get a fairly decent spot and would a prayer mat of newspaper- it was Arabic so I couldn’t read in prayer- I sought forgiveness and made a prayer for family, loved ones and myself. It was time for Sehri soon and it was a good thing that padkos (for non-South Africans: road food) was packed coz trying to get a taxi at that hour is more difficult than a South Africa trying to get a Hajj visa!

The last Musjid for the Great Musjid Crawl of 27th Night in Damascus was Jamia Shaykh Mohideen- the resting place of the famous Ibn Arabic. Unfortunately though, the route to the Musjid is via Souk Jumah and Jamia Abu Noor- and the masses that had just finished a night of prayer in Abu Noor were now hungry and determined to get to food at any cost. Getting through that crowd, alive, while going in the opposite direction, should be rewarded with a bountiful reward- tea and toast never tasted so good!

So with Fajr in the courtyard, the night officially came to an end and Damascus returned to some level of sanity- or should I say normality! That was until a few hours ago when this bomb went off..

24 September 2008

Halal interview with Hashim Amla

From Ramadan.co.za : Halal Bilal interviews Hashim Amla-

Hashim Amla topped the averages and the run charts for South Africa during the recent England tour, including a century in the first Test at Lord's, which helped to save the game. The stylish right-handed batsman is a solid and dependable man for the South African team, yet he still has time to share with his Muslim brothers and sisters.

The first half of this blessed month of Ramadan has passed. How do you feel about this?

There are a few emotions that are brought up when reflecting., over the last few years I have spent Ramadan in a few other countries so Alhamdulillah I am thrilled that this year I have been fortunate to see many days of Ramadan at home. Every country has its unique flavour of Islam which I absolutely love and of course the cuisines are a pleasant bonusJ. However the feeling of regret dominates me- not enough Quran, Salah, reflection etc. Alhamdulillah there’s still time left so I’m hoping to make merry while I can, Inshallah

Does the fasting affect your performance during matches, or if no games are being played in Ramadan, is your training being affected?

Yes, it does affect the matches and training- positively mostly- Alhamdulillah. People get amazed when I tell them that I have learnt so much in my game while I had been fasting. There has been instances on hot and humid summers days in Durban when I had been batting, and I remember thinking to myself with a bone dry mouth and throbbing headache...’when am I going to get out because I cannot handle this anymore’. I went on to make a big score, Alhamdulillah, but I have learnt after passing that stage of thirst and mental fatigue, that the limits we put on the body and mind can, and at times, must be challenged.

What advice would you give Muslim youth who are busy with studies/work/etc and find it difficult during the month of Ramadan?

I think time and energy management is key for us. I try and do my activities later in the day.
The truth is, Ramadan is a rewarding and testing month for all and experiencing difficulty and weakness is, I believe, one of the means of creating humility and submission in us to our lord. So when it’s tough, I am thinking sabr.

What do your other team mates have to say about Ramadan? Do they think it’s an issue that you fast?

There is no real issue and all I try and do is create a better understanding in their minds. Some have asked the significance of fasting, and I explain to them that this practise is not just in the Islamic faith, but in most of the world religions as a way of instilling discipline and God consciousness and that we believe Islam to be the final revelation to humanity. Other guys are just amazed that we don’t eat food or drink the whole day and still play cricket.

Does Ramadan provide extra opportunities for giving Dawah and speaking to non-Muslims about the beauty of Islam?

Yes indeed. Alhamdulillah.

What is your favourite verse from the Holy Quran?
Ala bidhikrillahi tutma innul quloob
La in shakartum la azeedanna kum
Innallaha ma'as saabireen

Who is your favourite reciter of the Holy Quran? I love Sheikh Mishari Raashid.

I enjoy listening to Sheikh Abdullah al-Matrood.

What general advice would you like to give the Muslim youth out there?

Let us strive to keep good friends, those that encourage towards the path of faith and knowledge.In our daily life we have interactions and the best form of attraction and understanding of Islam we can offer is that of the beloved Messenger (saw) and he (saw) has mentioned:

“ballighoo anni wa lo aayah” - “Convey from me even if it be a single aayah”

May Allah make it easy for us to follow the way of His Prophet (saw).

Halal Bilal is a South African comedian. He has toured with Riaad Moosa (The funniest man in South Africa) and many other South African comedians. He has also toured with the American group - Allah Made Me Funny - in South Africa and the UK.
His shows can be seen at www.skit.co.za
Picture from : www.tribuneindia.com

20 September 2008

Ramadan Post!

Ramadan here in Damascus is sooo busy- been meaning to blog and also right for ramadan.co.za, but just no time! So I'm going to recycle some blog posts from 2 years ago! Don't worry- they are some of my better pieces so I'm sure you'll enjoy them even if you read them before :-)

25 September 2006 - Happy Ramadaan

1 October 2006- Taraweeh Memoirs

22 October 2006- Ramadaan Unplugged!

Enjoy! Remember us in your prayers..