Thursday, December 9, 2010

MAKING HIJRAH 15 "Layla Tul Qadr"

Asalamu Alaykom,

Back in the States, when I was dreaming of Egypt, I would listen to Sheik Mohammed Jebril and think of hearing him in person.  His recitations of the Holy Quran inspired me to think big and to stay hopeful.

Soon after I arrived in Egypt, I began asking around.  Where was Sheik Mohammed Jebril?  Which masjid was his?  How could I find him?

The driver's mom had the answer.  Every Ramadan she would go listen to him on The Night of Power.  In Arabic it is called Layla tul Qadr. That night commemorates the first visit of the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).  This was when the Holy Quran was first shown to the Prophet and he was told "Read!"

She invited me to go with her.

My heart swelled!  Wow!  What a cool deal!  Layl tul Qadr with Sheik Mohammed Jebril!  She told me the name of the masjid.  It was Masjid Al-Amr in Cairo.  I looked it up on the internet and was in awe.  The masjid was not only the oldest masjid in Cairo, but in all of Egypt and in all of AFRICA!  Oh my God!  I was so psyched to get this chance.

However, I was hearing some concern from the other family.  With all the worries about H1N1, I shouldn't go--that's what they thought.  They were warning me to stay away from crowds and possible contagion.  Should I go or shouldn't I?

I thought about my heart's desire.  I certainly didn't come this far and risk so much to sit safely at home.  I had to follow that which kept my soul alive. 

The driver took us.  That trip over the Nile reminds me of the many times I've crossed the Mississippi back home. It is beautiful to see the water again after being so stuck amongst buildings and busy roads.

We reached the driver's grandpa's house and I met up with the driver's mom and his aunt. Mr. Boo had fallen asleep and the driver's teen sister agreed to stay back and watch him.  The driver would go to work.  So, it would be me and the two ladies who spoke no English.

We three had bags of food and two folding chairs to carry through the old streets. Mostly, it seemed like a normal time right before iftar--lots of people getting what they needed before the stores closed. 

We arrived at the area near the masjid and the feeling started to change.  Just standing on the street were people offering dates and juice to those about ready to break their fast. That was so special to me; that someone would make the effort.

We went closer to the masjid and found a place on a large green mat which had been rolled out on the walkways. We parked our stuff on the mat but I really wanted to see inside the masjid. The auntie stayed there while the driver's mom took my hand and led me through the crowd.

This was Islam. This was a huge amount of people all about to break their fast together; truly a sea of people. Imagine the State Fair if everyone sat down (and were not drinking beer).

I had to stop to talk to a large group of Malaysian sisters. They were so cute! I asked them if they came to Egypt for Ramadan and they all answered sweetly in unison, "To study".

The inside was packed and the driver's mom tried to explain how being inside would not feel good. There would be no "hawa". This word in Arabic has become very important to me. It is the breeze. At night, the breeze makes excuses for the heat of the day. Florida can be this way sometimes, but in Egypt it's every night. Beautiful nights. The breeze had just started as the sky was dimming. We went back to our place on the green mat and I was satisfied that being outside was best.

The azan came. We ate some of the dates which had been given out. I had my homemade Tang. I'm loving Tang here. The best flavor is Mango Tang. They should call it Mango Tango...but I don't have any pull in their advertising department. Do they have Mango Tang in America?

Then it was time for magrib prayers. Who would be leading the prayer? We knew that Sheik Jebril was leading Taraweah prayers (with its eight rakhas). Honestly, I think I held my breath as I stood there.

The prayer started and it was his voice. My God! What a voice! From Allah, for real. And after hearing the beautiful Al-Fatiha, it was going to be a surah. Which one?

Ad-Duha. I memorized this. I memorized this at one of the hardest times of my life. Here I was, in Egypt, with 3 million Muslims hearing it.



The one surah that I wanted to hear from Sheik Jebril more than any other.



Enna mal ousri yosra
Fa enna mal ousri yosra

He recited it.

"After harship there is ease
Surely, after hardship there is ease."

For me.

Enna mal ousri


Fa enna mal ousri


Sure, there were 2,999,999 other people there but I do believe that my prayers---said long ago in America---were answered. I was having the ease after the hardship, which Allah promised all of us.

Next, it was the surah talking about The Night of Power; Layla tul Qadr.

At that time, I had only memorized eight surahs. Three of them were spoken in the magrib prayer by the man who has filled my heart with the beauty of the Quran. Subhanallah. It really didn't have to be this way but it was just like this---and it was for me.

I do feel blessed.

And do you know who prayed magrib with me? It wasn't just the two ladies. After Mr. Boo woke up, the teen sister, had caved in to his wish to see me. They had walked to the masjid and we were reunited.

Now, Mr. Boo had been great doing his prayers at age two. However, he had been more difficult at age three, when we spent a fair amount of time in a non-Muslim household.  I was trying to get him back to the prayer mat now at age four.

There he was all of a sudden. How would he act? Mature? Immature?

He prayed the three rakhas with the maturity I had been wishing for.

Yes, he later lost it during the first four rakhas of Taraweah, but I was happy that he did so well for magrib. Be grateful for little things. That prayer together was what I desperately needed. I needed to feel connected to Allah, to the life here now and also connected to my boy.

It was time to go. Taraweah was done. There would be a du'a (supplication) but staying for that meant being stuck in a human traffic jam. The teen sister and I left with Mr. Boo's hands linking us together.

All those blocks of stores and restaurants were full. In every space stood a praying Muslim. Imagine! Block after block after block. Praying men and women. A whole neighborhood shut down to pray. Millions of people. Amazing. We wove ourselves through the people being careful not to disrupt them. No talking. Just hurrying. It was surreal. They would all soon go back to life. If we weren't quick then we would be unable to move through. At times, a feeling of clausterphobia crept in. I hadn't felt that here in my neighborhood but I felt it for the first time that night.

Finally, we were out; past the army trucks. We could look at each other and laugh and sigh. We had been going and going without end in sight. We had made it at last. I spoke up and told the teen girl in Arabic that this has never happened in America.

"Why?" she wanted to know.

Well, there aren't that many Muslims. I think the whole U.S. has between 3-6 million Muslims total. Supposing that 3 million estimation is correct, then what I witnessed that night would be the scene if every single Muslim-American would come together in prayer.

But if we all did come together in a sea of worshippers, as I saw and felt, then the feeling of those around us wouldn't be as I felt on Layla tul Qadr. In America, there is such fear of Muslims and I was constantly aware in America that if I worshipped (as I wished) that I was scaring others. I hated that. On those Cairo streets, for the first time in my life, I got to worship en masse outside in the cool night breeze AND feel no fear.

There is peace in that moment.

Finding a taxi cab later broke a lot of that calm but even in that hard time, I found strength. There were sisters stranded like me. They were asking the cab driver if he was going to our area. I answered "yes" and had them join our ride. We sat together; four Muslim sisters squished in a little taxi; stuck in traffic.


It wasn't happiness.

Still, I wasn't quite sure if I was happy in Egypt.

But... I was living fully.

Fully living anywhere is better than being "happy" somewhere else being someone else.

I had been told that I shouldn't go out on Layla tul Qadr. There was that fear of "influenza khanzier" spreading.

"Should I stay home?" I had wondered.

I had even been asked out for a iftar dinner at a restaurant by one of the other teachers.

That would have been an easier way to spend the night.


I needed to go.

Alhumdulillah for the opportunity.

Chapter 16

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Salam Alaikum,
I've really been enjoying your blog! I just came upon it and have been going through your Hijrah posts. You could write a book with this material, mashaAllah.
I just wanted to point out that the translation of the ayah is "With every hardship, there is relief", not after. The arabic word ma'a means with. For example, whenever we go through some hardship, some of our sins are erased. Hence the relief came with the hardship, at the same time.
Salam Alaikum