Thursday, 7 August 2008

Day 40: Our last day

It feels weird to write about today just like it's any other day. It still hasn't sunk in that today is really our last day. And I don't want to think about it so I'll just talk about today like it was any other day.

Today I went through another lesson in patience: I got stuck outside Dar al-Zahra from 3:20 until 4am, which meant I basically missed tahajud (though I turned on my radio and did my awrad outside). We were stuck outside because apparently they couldn't find the woman who has the key. (They lock the doors at night and I'm assuming the key changes rooms/ women who keep it every night). Patience is definitely something I have to work on.

Anyway, after dawn lots of men from Dar al-Mustafa spoke about the end of the Dowra and what it means to them for about an hour.

The Jewish convert spoke again, and this time about da'wah [calling people to Islam/ properly transmitting Islam's message]. And Subhan Allah he was incredible; he says he was so joyful with Islam that he literally took a road trip from New York to California to talk to people on his way about Islam. He went right up to a man at a gas station and asked him if he knew about the Day of Judgment. He went up to a man in a doctor's office. Both of them took shahada at his hands, and converted to Islam.

I can't understand the bravery of going up to people and initiating a discussion about Islam, especially when they didn't ask, or worse, if you don't know them. The Jewish convert says he gives da'wah to everyone, even a police officer who once pulled him over for speeding.
He reminded me of Fadel Soliman, the president of Bridges Foundation. When I was doing the first stage of Dr. Soliman's Public Presenters for Peace (PPP) program, which is how to present Islam to non-Muslims, he told us a story to illustrate how important it is to give da'wah to everyone:

I was on a plane in the US and it was a four hour flight. I asked the woman sitting next to me if she wanted to listen to a presentation about Islam. She said no. I told her, how about you listen to it and I give you $100 if you don't learn anything? She said ok. So I gave her the presentation. I asked her if she wanted the money, and she said no.

For me, speaking to non-practicing Muslims about Islam is hard, let alone to non Muslims. Religion is just such a sensitive topic and it's just so awkward.

Anyway, half an hour after the awrad finished we got on a bus to visit the mosques in Tarim. I was thinking of not going since I'd only had two hours of sleep, but I am so glad I went.

The bus dropped us off in the Ba 'Alawi square, known as the heart of Tarim. Our first stop was the Ba 'Alawi mosque, built by Faqih al-Moqaddam's grandson. I prayed in the area he used to pray in.

Then we went to the mosque of Abu Qader al-Saqqaf, who wanted to marry al-Sheikha Sultana.

Then we went to the mosque of Muhammad (Sa'ad) bin 'Alawi al-'Aidrus, and I prayed in his khalwa (seclusion/ worship) area. It was seriously creepy—the room (if you can call it that) is basically a hole in the ground, and when I put my elbows out I touch the sides. The ceiling is 10 cm above my head, and you can't lie down in it. I was there for 10 minutes and felt claustophobric, how could he stand to be there for so long? It's definitely coffin like and I'm guessing reminded him of being in the grave one day.

Our last stop in the morning was the mosque of Omar al-Saqqaf, the son of Abu Qader al-Saqqaf. He's known as Omar el-Mihdar (the present) though, because of his 'presence,' and his daughter 'Aisha is buried there. The mosque is huge, and has the tallest mud minaret in the world.

The wudu' (ablution) areas in the mosque are split up into tiny rooms, and each one has a steep well full of water for ghusl (kind of like the ones in the Afghani Osama movie. Osma was the name of the girl hero, not that Osama). I had a quick dip and it was surprisingly cool and refreshing.

After 'asr was the khatm [closing] for women in Habib Umar's courtyard, and it was so so packed. It was similar to Dar al-Mustafa's, minus the speeches. Habib Ali's daughter (she's 9) gave a little lecture and mash'Allah her mannerisms are exactly like her dad's, a scholar in the making.

After 'isha we visited zambal again, which was a great opportunity since last time we didn't really get a chance to properly visit since it had been so late.

We're all just chilling now in a room, eating all the leftover cookies and crackers I bought when I went to the supermarket with my brother a while back. We asked a henna woman to come over, and I just had henna done. It took almost two hours to do the front and back of my hands and arms up to my elbows, but it's so beautiful—a fitting way to celebrate my time in Tarim.

Tahajud is in 40 minutes, so we're going to spend the time until then up on the roof, one last time.

I can't believe I'm leaving in 12 hours. It seems so surreal and it hasn't really hit me that I have to get up and pack now, that this is my last night on this mattress, in this house, up on that roof staring at those mountains.

It rained buckets today—it's only rained that way once since I've been here, at the 20 day mark. It's wonderful to walk in the rain and breeze.

They say du'ua is accepted when it rains, that the doors of the sky are opened. So my du'ua is: To come back to Tarim one day, insh'Allah.

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