“With my Hand on my Heart I can Say I am Truthfully Grateful for Seizing this Opportunity!”
My dream to relive precious moments in the tranquil land of Iran near the blessed personalities of Imam Ali-ibn-Musa Ar-Redha (as) and Bibi Fatima Masuma (sa) soon became a reality, and I realized the prayer I made whilst clinging onto the holy shrine of Sayyeda Masuma (sa) only months ago had been accepted. A tearful promise fulfilled by the generosity of Allah (swt) granted through the Wasila of Sayyeda Masuma (sa) and for this opportunity I am truly thankful.
Prior to embarking on this journey or experience, many questions and emotions filled my mind… I was in a whirlpool of contemplation, wondering what deeds have I done to have been called by Mawla (as) and Bibi (sa) to be amongst their loving Zawaar. I marvelled numerous times over the notion that they considered me to be worthy of their pilgrimage, yet deep inside I felt that I was not even worthy of walking on the beautiful marble floors. I wondered what it is that I want to change and inculcate within myself to become closer to my Lord so that I can fly up the ladder of spirituality.
Driving to the city of Qom filled me with a heart warming, enchanting feeling alongside the eminent peace that is felt when you enter an honourable city; my heart was constantly overflowing with gratitude to Allah (swt) for making this possible. As we entered the innermost rims of Qom, I yearned to catch a timeless glimpse of Bibi Masuma’s (sa) shrine, a view I have deeply missed. Moments later there it was, the pure Haram of Kareematu Ahlulbayt (sa)… Tears flowed down my cheeks as this magnificent view embedded itself further into my heart and I could not help but express my thanks to this Holy Lady for inviting me one more time. I had returned home, home with my Mother in her sacred land. Despite finally arriving in the place where my lips, heart and soul had long craved for it still felt so surreal, all I now desired was to spend hours connecting and praying in her holy vicinity but before this, there was one more destination.
Jamia-tuz-Zahra was our residence as we stayed in the knowledge-enriched city of Qom, the place that marked the start of our Hawza experience, one that was to stay with us for the rest of our lives. Within no time at all, Jamia was our home, we felt like we all ‘belonged’ in this serene accommodation as the guests of Sayyeda Fatima Az-Zahra (sa). Conversing with a few of the mentors and a maadar, I realised the true value of this statement. The maadar’s radiance and passion clearly emanated as she explained that the maadars are in essence Kaniz-e-Zahra and the Kadhams of our Imam (ajts), doing what was within their capacity to serve us as the Zawaar, praying that this would be the start of our many visits to Jamia. I pondered on this profundity, acknowledging that this had been an inherent wish of mine for many years. This experience has truly opened up many avenues that I have prayed for and inshAllah, I intend to explore in the near future.
Our daily scheduled classes fell nothing short of my expectations and believe me, if you are strongly considering this; all your preconceptions will be blown away. Just watch as everything falls perfectly into place once you have made your Niyyat. Each class brought us mountains of knowledge to inculcate, internalise and further reflect upon. These classes concentrated on Aqaed with Sister Naajiya; the elements of human decline with Sayyed Kazmi; and Quran tafseer on the concluding verses of Surah Furqaan with Shaykh Khalfaan. In Aqaed, Sister Naajiya beautifully described how privileged we are to be in this temporary world. She heavily emphasised how we were a mere probability of chance before we came into existence and it was solely through Allah (swt)’s divine mercy that we were granted this opportunity. Sayyed Kazmi’s classes allowed me to critically evaluate exactly where I am on my ladder of spirituality. They provided me with a breath of fresh air, inspiration and focus to remain steadfast to improve the impurities within me, making me fully cognisant of how long and difficult this road of self development truly is. Ultimately the solutions lie deep within, that is having complete Maarifat of each action and whether it stems from the order of Nafs or the order of my Ruh, permitting me to rise high towards Allah (swt)’s throne. Both classes tied in well with Shaykh Khalfaan’s classes on ‘Ibaad-ur-Rahman’, their characteristics and how if we really seek it we can practically personify them.
Rising early to head towards Bibi Masuma (sa)’s Haram for Salaatul Layl and Fajr Jamaat was exceptional incomparable to any other morning. Upon peacefully completing my Salaatul Layl and Fajr Jamaat I sat silently contemplating, after a few moments my dear sister and mentor tightly embraced me, her timing was perfect. After some time, we let go and I proceeded towards my Bibi (sa) to recite her Ziyaraat, following all etiquettes. Gazing up with my face full of streaming tears, I sincerely prayed for Sayyeda Masuma (sa) to be my intercessor so that I can enter Jannah, inshAllah. My heart shattered further and I was truly broken, as I stood in the magnanimous courtyard pleading and expressing my hajaats. Returning back to Jamia that morning was difficult but a heartfelt conversation with my mentor was soothing as everything was brought back into perspective, for that I thank her greatly. This emotional day was far from over as we visited Masjid-e-Jamkaraan that evening.
Jamkaraan, the prestigious Masjid of our Imam, Imam Muhammed Al-Mahdi (ajts). What can one say about this place that does it pure justice? In my humble opinion, there are simply no words sufficient to describe its true beauty. It is an experience in itself! To think that our Imam (ajts) is present as we recite Dua Tawassul, seeking the intercession of all the Imams (as) one by one as their tragedies are narrated, is unfathomable. We are lost in hope that he will listen to our Hajaats but we fail to realise that our Hajaats are selfish. Recognising this and the sheer magnitude of his munificence where he selflessly prays for us hurts me brutally. I tearfully reflected on the painstaking words of Dua Nudba “Where is the investigator of the blood of the Martyrs of Karbala?” He is ready for the curtains to be lifted; it is me, my sins and ignorance that prevents this becoming a reality. To have any chance of meeting my Imam (ajts) I must change myself and make an effective effort to improve my understanding of him, in turn strengthening my connection.
As we approached our final days in Qom, amidst the mixed emotions, our inspiring teachers took it upon themselves to remind us how we were now reaching the climax of our journey; the purpose of our physical presence here in Iran, that is the Ziyaraat of our 8th infallible, Imam Ali-ibn-Musa Ar-Redha (as) in Mashad. They emphasized the importance of understanding his life (alongside all other infallibles); how lucky we were to be entering into the presence of Baabul Hawaaij, with the permission of his beloved sister Bibi Masuma (sa); and how we should ask from the depths of our hearts as we vowed not to waste any precious opportunities in the time we had left. Highlighting all of this, Sister Naajiya played a beautiful Farsi video that helped us bring all our thoughts onto the same page; her translation of it was special and moved us all to tears. Sister Naajiya’s inspiring words and this video continue to resonate in my ears and I know this is a feeling that will last forever.
With my dream almost at its end, Mashad left me in complete awe as I was finally reunited with Shah-e-Khurasaan (as). Setting my watering eyes on the glistening golden dome of Mawla Redha (as) filled me with inspiration as I recalled his generosity. Where he himself says, “If one visits me, despite the far-ness of my place, I will come to him on three occasions of the Resurrection Day so as to save him from the horrors of these occasions: when the book of deeds are thrown right and left; when the Discriminating Bridge (Siraat) is tried to cross; and when the balance of deeds is set up.” Our classes continued within the sanctity of the Jamia Razavi Courtyard and were a superb continuation of those in Qom; focusing on Maarifat-un-Nafs and the elevating biography of Imam Redha (as). After many heart-rending nights, I was remarkably privileged to be in the presence of Imam Redha (as), commemorating the Shahadaat of Imam Jaffer-As-Sadiq (as). As I sat in Azaadi Courtyard reflecting, my heart strings were tugged by the Farsi Masaib of Sayyeda Fatima (sa), the tears flowed down my cheeks and my heart ached as the similarities of the tragedies that befell Imam Ali (as) and Imam Sadiq (as) was something I was ignorant of. For days, whilst sitting with the majestic view in front of my sinful eyes, I was lost in a peril of thought, struggling to comprehend one concept... How the Shuhada-e-Kerbala dealt with all that befell them as they succeeded in achieving closeness to the Almighty (swt), the Jihad of the 6th month old, and above all the unwavering loyalty of Abul Fadhl Al-Abbas? As I placed my head in Sujood, my heart skipped a beat and tears filled my eyes as I remembered Imam Hussain (as) as he lay on the burning sands in his final moments with Sayyeda Zainab (as) looking on with a broken heart. Deep inside, I acknowledged that there are several events that I will never feel the same about, feelings that have affected me spiritually.
Leaving these blessed lands and the dream I lived for three life-changing weeks was emotionally unbearable. The memories of this experience (my ziyaraat, my sisters and knowledge gained) and vows made will be cherished forevermore, and I pray wholeheartedly that Allah (swt) grants us the tawfeeq to fully fulfil these vows. Imam Ali (as) states “Opportunity passes away [quickly] like clouds, so seize good opportunities when they arise”, and with my hand on my heart I can say I am truthfully grateful for seizing this opportunity.
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Written By: Aliyah Bhimani from Peterborough, UK