No words or phrases can ever give justice to the experience felt in Iran. Each experience, each moment and each second deserves a written biography, while still leaving you in frustration for not explaining it well enough.
Updated on 12 March 2018
“If you're thinking to be a mentor or a participant, say Bismillah and go for it!”
Until this summer, I didn't know what being a mentor really meant. Even now, after having had some time to reflect upon the experience of Madinah and Bab course 2014, the honor and responsibility still perplexes me. I had planned to apply as a mentor quite some time before the course was advertised, thinking that I would love to give back to something that changed the direction of my life when I attended as a participant 2008. Little did I know that once again, along with the task of facilitating the Ziyarah of some inspirational sisters, this experience would refresh my perspective on my own spiritual development. And where better to undergo such a transformation than under the care of Imam Ridha (a.s) and Lady Masuma (a.s)?
I had been blessed to go to Iraq, Iran and Syria many times before this summer but actually, the concept of having any responsibility during the Ziyarah was completely foreign to me. So many unanswered questions remained as the travel date approached: 'What is actually expected of me during these three weeks?' 'Would I just slip into the role with ease or will I have to work at it at every moment?' And perhaps the most practical question was, 'Am I going to be of any use as my Farsi doesn't go very far beyond 'chande?'
Well, as for the latter; it just so happened that the delicate combination of broken English, wide eyes and extremely exaggerated hand actions was quite effective. It also turned out the main language required during the course was an unspoken one between souls...
After the 3 day intensive Mentor Development Program which prepared us for the course in so many ways, it was time to put theory into practice as the dear participants flew in from all over the world and from all walks of life. Bosnia, Africa, Dubai, UK; the names written on the list we had been given suddenly became unique individuals who had come in this journey seeking something, and it was our privilege to be with them on that journey.
Before we knew it, the course had started with full force and the stunning Jamiatuz Zahra Hawza became home for us in Qum. The daytime busy schedule was filled with emotional Ziyarats to Bibi Masuma (a.s), the enchanting scene at Masjid Jamkaran, thought provoking Hawza classes, sports sessions, field trips and nature walks, lectures, and even Azadari Majalis organized by the participants themselves. In contrast, the beautiful stillness of the night prompted deep reflection sessions, soul searching, late night discussions and Namaz Shab under the stars.
The sisterhood that forms in such environments is unparalleled and indescribable. You make a family that have all come for the same purpose; to get closer to Allah (swt) through the visitation of His Hujjah (a.s) on earth, and our trip truly reached its peak in the heavenly land of Mashhad. Amidst tens of thousands of worshippers, there you are standing in front of your Imam, knowing that he acknowledges your presence and responds to your Salaam! In those moments of bliss, as our Madina and Bab experience was reaching its end, it became so important to internalize our Ziyarah as energy that would get us through the hard times in life as we all returned to our home towns with memories and friendships to treasure forever.
If you're thinking of applying to be a mentor or a participant, say Bismillah and go for it! This journey could change your life if you let it. Expect the intensity of a challenge that takes you, spiritually and emotionally, towards your limits. Expect to learn things about yourself every time you're faced with a situation that pushes you further out of your comfort zone. Expect to be amazed at the dedication and sincerity of organizers who work tirelessly for this cause, and inspire you to try and do the same. And most of all, expect to fall in love with the place and the people who stand alongside you, as you embark on this once in a lifetime opportunity!
Written by: Mentor Sister Mohadditha Jaffer Suleiman, UK
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I still remember that day as though it were only yesterday. I remember dragging my suitcase up the gravel road, squinting against the harsh sunlight after having slept through an hour long bus ride to Qum.
This trip taught me many things; socialising, bravery, individuality independency, responsibility and to stand up for myself.