Moulana Hanif Dudhwala, recently travelled to Palestine and Jordan. This is the second part to his journey to the blessed lands.
Once we had familiarised ourselves with Masjid-e-Aqsa and its surroundings in Jerusalem, we set off to visit the other blessed sites.
We took the local bus from Jerusalem and arrived in the famous town of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Hazrat Isa (A.S.).
From here we took a minibus and some 2 hours later arrived at the Dead Sea in Jericho, this is the place where the nation of Hazrat Loot (A.S.) was punished by The Almighty for their immoral deeds, as it was an area where the wrath & anger of The Almighty descended, we only stopped for a few minutes and moved on.
The Dead Sea extends from Palestine to Jordan and is 400 feet below sea level, a fish would not remain alive in the water for even a minute.
Whilst in Jericho, we visited Maqam-e- Moosa (A.S.), the place where Hazrat Moosa (A.S.) had spent some time.
We also had the opportunity to see Masjid-e-Sharhabeel Ibn Hasana (R.A.), a nice small Masjid financed by the Muslims of Preston UK for the Muslims of Palestine, what a wonderful gift. From Jericho, we moved onto a nearby town by the name Halhawl where we visited Maqam – e- Yunus (A.S.).
It is important to point out here that all places titled with Maqam (resting place) indicate that the named Prophet definitely resided there for a while, however, there is a possibility that their resting place may be elsewhere.
Our next stop was Hebron, the famous town which is home to the famous Masjid-e-Khalil which is constructed upon the cemetery which contains the resting places of four very illustrious Prophets and their families.
As we approached the entrance, there was a full security check on us and the Masjid was well guarded with security guards all over. It was sad to see that half of the Masjid had been converted into a synagogue, hence no access for Muslims.
We entered the Masjid and had the opportunity to convey our salams to Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S.), his son Hazrat Ishaq (A.S.), his son Hazrat Yakub (A.S.) and his son Hazrat Yusuf (A.S.). We also conveyed our salams to their wives who are resting there as well, it was such an emotional moment.
There is a slight opening in the floor of the Masjid but very difficult to see the graves underneath, may The Almighty return this complete Masjid back into the hands of the Muslims, Ameen. It had been a very long day taking in a lot of famous historical places, our last visit of the day was to Maqam-e-Loot (A.S.), from here we returned back to Bethlehem and got the bus back to Jerusalem, we had heard that Palestine was home to many Prophets, today we had witnessed this first hand, it was a dream come true.
The next day was Thursday and again we took the local bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, we witnessed firsthand how the local Palestinians are treated, there are checkpoints are regular intervals where all Palestinians under the age of 40 have to get off the bus and show there I.D. cards, foreigners and families with children remain on the bus where security officials check the documents, the patience of the Palestinians is surely put to the test, prisoners in their own countries, it was so frustrating.
We arrived at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, one of the most holiest sites in Christianity, we were given a very warm welcome by the priests and had the opportunity to see the exact spot where the miraculous birth of Hazrat Isa (A.S.) took place, the church was crowded with visitors from all over the world and is maintained by a number of Christian denominations.
An anti war protest was held in front of the church on 30th March 2003 in which Father Pancratius, the residing parish priest banned George W Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair and Jack Straw forever from entering the church for their role in the Iraq war.
He described them as child – killers, who would tarnish the church if they entered it, well done Father Pancratius.
One of the most famous of Palestinian foods is known as Falafel, a small round kebab made out of chick peas and vegetables, Falafel sandwiches were our lunch that day and they were delicious.
From Bethlehem we returned back to Jerusalem and headed for the Christian Quarter, this where the church of the Holy Sepulchre is located, another of Christianity`s most holiest sites. According to Christian belief, this is the place where Jesus was crucified, a belief contrary to Islam. We had a brief tour of the church and moved on.
The next day was Friday, we offered our Jumaah Salaah amongst thousands of Palestinians in Masjid-e-Aqsa, it was a glorious sight.
We visited the cemetery of the martyrs where we conveyed our salams to Hazrat Shaddad Ibn Aws (R.A.) and Hazrat Ubadah Ibn Samit (R.A.), two great companions of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.).
We visited the Jewish quarter and made our way to the Buraq Wall (known as the Western or Wailing Wall), we prayed that this area comes under Muslim control once again. Amongst the many other places we visited, the Masjid of Hazrat Umar (R.A.) and the Khanqah of Hazrat Salauhuddin Ayyubi (R.A.) were the most significant, indeed it was the sacrifices of these 2 illustrious personalities that liberated Al Quds previously, as the saying goes: `Al Quds was conquered by Hazrat Umar (R.A.), liberated by Hazrat Salahuddin Ayyubi (R.A.), who is there for liberation now?` We spent 5 memorable days in Al Quds, we then took a minibus back to the border crossing and within an hour were back into Jordan.