The Magic of al-Aqsa
Palestine has always had a special place in the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world, and like most people, I had always dreamt of one day praying salah at Masjid al-Aqsa. By the grace of Allah, I recently managed to fulfil this dream to coincide with the possible date of the Prophet (SAW)’s visit to al-Aqsa during his night ascension (mi’raaj).
As Muslims, Masjid al-Aqsa and its twin Dome of the Rock complex have been instilled in us as ‘postcard captures’ that shout nothing short of magnificence. Wallahi, despite the busy schedule of our trip, the heavy itinerary and the trouble awaiting our entry visa – there is a magical peace the moment you step into al-Aqsa that takes your breath away. It is almost as though all of the problems outside of the complex seemingly do not exist anymore – and that is not an exaggeration. I had always imagined any visit to Palestine for me to just ‘tick my box’ of sunnahs to fulfil, but the moment you go there you realise you will long to return once more. This is the moment that I realised why it is preserved as a sacred sanctuary along with Makkah and Madinah, and there is no feeling that you feel inside the masjid that I can compare to other than the ‘homely’ feeling of Madinah.
I naturally assume that a large percentage of readers will be interested in how I made my trip to Palestine; this being through the Jordan entry point after having spent a few days in Amman. This is the route that I would personally recommend, as opposed to flying in through Tel Aviv. The reason being, there is every possibility that you will be refused entry and be sent back home on a return flight. However, through Amman you will still have the back-up plan of spending some time in Jordan if you are refused entry. The entry point itself is quite gruelling and requires a lot of patience – with myself spending ten hours at the entry point. However, I had already anticipated this wait and therefore it was not really a problem for me. To add to this, when one realises that this is the same process that every Palestinian has to go through day-in day-out for their whole lives – it is actually a good learning experience (minus the abuse, weaponry and threats of course!).
The country itself is beautiful with its religious history, hilltops, olive trees and smiling children. As a tourist, you are often transported from one place to another, without the requirement to get off at checkpoints. This substantially reduces our views of what we assume Palestinians to go through. In fact, we have a very easy ride and manage to do in one week what Palestinians are not able to do in their entire lifetime!
I’ll end my thoughts with one last request to the reader; please make an intention to visit al-Aqsa at least once in your lifetime – it is the only place outside of the Hijaz that the Prophet (SAW) has recommended for us to visit. Safety concerns are not a big enough excuse to not visit it, as I travelled with my two elderly parents – one of whom is a wheelchair user, and we managed perfectly fine. If you could feel what I felt the first time I stepped into al-Aqsa to pray fajr, and the magical picturesque moment stepping out of the masjid with the sun rising and the birds circling in and out of the masjid – you would grab this chance while you can. Wallahi I miss it like home.
By Abdul Aleem