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..