Hello everyone, and welcome back to Munazzabangash.com! I’m so happy to be starting this vlog like series named; Travel With Me! First off, I’m not much of a traveler. However, when I do travel, I like to save it somewhere more than pictures. I like to write the experience down in a journal mostly, because a picture is worth a thousand words, I agree, but a thousand words written on a piece of paper can describe your feelings better than a picture will ever be able to do so.
The first stop in this series is Iraq. This visit was very special to me in many ways. Firstly, I visited the country I wanted to visit ever since I understood the concept of countries. Secondly, I was privileged to be there with my family; especially my mother. Thirdly, this country is full of history and I got to explore some of it. Fourthly, this was my very first visit out of my country. And Lastly, Iraq has played such an important part in the context of Islam that my fascination, compassion and respect knew no bounds when I touched that land.
In this first part of my Iraq Series, we will visit the holy city of Najaf. Since there is a lot for me to say about this visit, today we’ll visit only the main sight of Najaf; i.e., the holy shrine of Hazrat Imam Ali (A.S).
But first, an introduction.
HAZRAT IMAM ALI (A.S)
The holy city of Najaf is known for being host to Hazrat Imam Ali Ibn e Abi Talib (A.S)’s tomb. Hazrat Ali was the cousin and son-in-law of Hazrat Muhammad (S.A.W.W); the last prophet of Islam, and is considered the rightful immediate successor after our Holy Prophet. Hazrat Ali was the first male to accept Islam, and has protected our Holy Prophet from a very young age. He was known for his courage, loyalty, justice, devotion, and much more.
Hazrat Ali (15 September 601 – 29 January 661) was born in the Holy Kaaba, and received martyrdom in the great Mosque of Kufa during Fajar Prayer. While he was prostrating to Allah, Ibn-e-Muljim attacked him, and struck him in the head with his poison coated sword. Hazrat Imam Ali martyred after 2 days. He was born on 13th Rajab and received martyrdom on 21st Ramadan.
Hazrat Muhammad’s famous quotes for Hazrat Ali were;
‘I am the city of knowledge and ‘Ali is its gate; so whoever desires knowledge, let him enter the gate.’ (Ana Madinatul ilm wa Ali Babuha)
‘For whomever I am the mawla [guardian, master, close friend], ‘Ali is his mawla (man kuntu mawlahu fa-’Ali mawlahu).’
‘Truly, ‘Ali is from me and I am from him (inna ‘Ali minni wa ana minhu), and he is the wali (patron/spiritual master) of every believer after me.’
Some of his famous titles include:
* Amir al-Muminin (Ameerul Momineen) – The Commander of the Faithful
* Imamul Muttaqeen – The Guide of the Pious and God fearing people
* Mozhar al-Ajaaib (Mazharul Ajaib) – The Manifest of wonders
* Madeenatul Ilm – The Gateway of the City of Knowledge
* Asadullahul Ghaleb – The Ever Triumphant Lion of Allah
* Lisaanullah – The Tongue of Allah
* Yadullah – The Hand of Allah
* Wajhullah – The Face of Allah
* Nafse Rasulullah – The Soul of the Holy Prophet
* Valiullah – The Friend of Allah
* Abu Turab – The Father of the Soil/Earth
* Faateh-e-Khaiber – The Conqueror of Khaiber
* Abul Aimmah – The Father of the Holy Imams
* Haidar-e-Karrar – The Charging Lion
* Safdar – Piercing lines, fighter
Honestly, I can keep writing about Hazrat Imam Ali and never tire because I’m in love with his personality. If you would like to read more about him, there are countless articles written on his works, personality and life. However, I would suggest that if you do want to read about him, grab a book written by an authentic, unbiased author.
Let’s start from the start.
We left early morning for Jinnah International Airport. We had to take connecting flights to Iraq. So, it was around 2 hours from Pakistan to Qatar, 8 hours stay at Qatar Airport, and then around 2 hours from Qatar to Najaf. The whole day was spent travelling, but instead of being tired out of my mind, I was filled with immense joy and excitement.
Here’s how our day was spent:
When I reached the Airport of Najaf and placed my foot on the holy land of Najaf, the first thing I did was that I touched the land with my hand and then brought my hand to my lips. My intentions were clear in my mind. This was the land that made our religion stronger. This was the land where our religious leaders once walked and spread Islam. This was the land from where the message of peace was spread. This is the land where even today the teachings to Holy Quran is given utmost importance.
When we got out of the airport, we waited for our cab for about an hour. During that time, we tried speaking Arabic and failed at it miserably. We would mix up Urdu, Pashto and English with Arabic language and then laugh like maniacs. The cab drivers would ask if we needed a ride and all I would say was, “Laa” which means “no” as that was probably the only Arabic word I knew.
After some time our ride arrived. Our driver, named Saddam, was the sweetest, most amazing person ever. He spoke Arabic only and since we didn’t know much Arabic, our conversations with him were quite funny. He would always say things like “Qubool Ziyarah InshaAllah” which is loosely translated into: May your visit here be accepted and well-received by Allah. He would always smile. Our group had never seen him not smiling. Once, we were trying to look for him but we couldn’t figure out if the man sitting in the farther corner was Saddam or not. I joked and told my group to look if he’s smiling, because if he did, he would definitely be Saddam.
Saddam was with us throughout our visit to Iraq, and we were glad about that as he knew Iraq on his fingertips. People knew him well, too. Once, we were on the road and a group of people just started screaming his name with delight when he saw our car. My uncle (our group leader) told him “Anta Mash’hoor” meaning “You’re famous!” and he laughed and said, “Yes, very much” in Arabic.
When we said goodbye to Saddam after our visit, he looked sad, which we were, too. He had spent such good time with us that my uncle had said that whatever wage he asks for, no matter how expensive it gets, he’ll give it to him. But when it was time for him to tell us what he charged for his service, he said that he doesn’t want anything. We were so surprised at his behavior and somehow started respecting him even more than we already did. We did pay him for his services as a driver but he will always remain in our memories as a person who made our visit to Iraq ten times better.
My First Sight of the Hole Shrine
Our hotel was very near to the holy shrine. We didn’t know this. So when we reached the gate of our hotel, we were tired from the packing, riding, 8 hours stay at Qatar Airport and then the drive and everything. The moment we were about to enter the hotel, Saddam asked to look towards our right, and there it was; beautiful golden tomb of Hazrat Imam Ali (A.S). I will never forget that moment in my entire life. It was surreal. That sudden exposure to the beauty of that sight will remain with me forever.
The shrine was not too close to us but was easily visible. We didn’t visit the shrine immediately, because we wanted to get cleaned up and perform ablution before going there. After paying our respects to the resident of that holy shrine from afar, we went to our rooms and slept like a log.
Through the Check Point
The next day we visited the Holy Shrine of Imam Ali. It was Friday. The first time I went there, it was not too chaotic. There were a lot of check points from the hotel to the shrine. Every check point was separated for men and Women. We learned the Arabic words for both gender. Rajal for Men and Nisaa for Women.
Through the last check point when I was about to enter the shrine, they found my phone and asked me not to carry it inside. I felt devastated. I didn’t know that a phone was not allowed inside and the security there wasn’t budging on it. And the problem was that I couldn’t quite understand their language. So, it was a bit confusing, too.
I was so excited to finally enter there but I guess I had to wait. So, I got out. I was about to cry because it was my first time there, and I didn’t know anyone. I knew that taking my phone back to the hotel would result in me not being able to offer Zuhr prayer on time. Luckily my brother was right around the corner. He asked me what was wrong and I told him that I have to take my phone back. He took the phone from me, smiled and asked me to go to the shrine. I was extremely grateful.
When I went back to the security check point, there was around half an hour left for Zuhr prayer. The crowd was unbelievable. There were so many people waiting to get inside the tomb to offer prayer. The check point was jam packed with women wearing black hijabs. Throughout my time at the check point, someone would announce a request to send durood (Praise) to the Holy Prophet and his household, and the whole crowd would recite it together. It was beautiful.
When I Entered the Holy Shrine
First thing’s first; the holy shrine of Hazrat Imam Ali is so stunning, I could not believe it. It was huge and beautifully built and designed. I don’t think I’d ever be able to describe the beauty of it in words. Beautiful Qur’anic verses and Ahadiths were written on the walls. The tomb was golden and situated right above the Zari/grave of Imam Ali.
When I entered the room where the grave was, it was very crowded. By much effort, I reached the Golden Zari and touched it. I couldn’t comprehend what to say or feel. All I felt was immense joy and peace, and I cried because it was my dream to be standing there. It felt surreal that I was privileged enough to be where I was. After a while, I stood there and stared at the shrine.
The area was separated for males and females. All the women were offering prayers to Allah. There was a hustle bustle of Namazi’s all over the place. Everyone was busy in offering and making prayers. The tranquility there can not be described in words.
Outside of the tomb, there was a huge ground (separated for both genders) with carpeted floors for people to pray there. We sat outside and got busy in recitation of the Holy Quran and offering prayers. It was December, so the weather was quite cold, yet very enjoyable. We spent a good amount of time there.
My Visit There at Night
When it was night time, my maternal aunty (also my to-be mother-in-law) and I decided to go to the tomb. It was late at night and we figured that the amount of people might be lesser than it was in the day time. So, on we went. My brother and cousin said that they would accompany us and drop us there, which really wasn’t necessary, but they seemed to enjoy making fun of us. According to them, we were being too in love with the shrine and all we’d do is fall asleep instead of praying.
Inside the shrine, the night was way more peaceful than the day time (if possible). The amount of people was cut down drastically (but still a lot of people were present), and we got to touch the Zari and pray to Allah relatively more easily.
The funny thing was that even though my khala and I were adamant about staying there till Fajar, my stupid self kept falling asleep. My khala prayed all night and when she saw me, she smiled and asked me to wait a little while more (in which she asked me to let myself shut my eyes for a while with my head in her lap). After some time, she woke me up and we went back to our hotel. My brother made fun of me, but I guess I had it coming.
I think this post is getting out of my hands. It’s 2000+ words already! Let’s save more for the next installment in my Iraq series, shall we?
I hope you loved reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. If I’ve made a mistake or hurt someone in some way, please forgive me.
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With a positive energy; I’ll see you next time!
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