I have always wondered what my last thoughts would be when I was about to die. Little did I expect that Allah swt would give me that chance.
It was Friday afternoon and a blessed Juma (Friday Congregational Prayers) at Masjid Al-Aqsa – one of the three most important holy places to Muslims. I was soaking in the agony of driving through Palestine, having witnessed their plight with my own bare eyes. You see, what you see on the media is NOWHERE close to depicting the reality. Thousands of kilometers of boundary walls reaffirming Jewish settlements – the more they expand, the more number of Palestinians move into refugee camps. Camps that lack even the most basic of facilities, like water.
We were just about done with our final prayers when explosion noises from the outside caught everyone’s attention. Must be military practice, thought our careless minds. Having decided to move out anyway, we exited through the main door to wait for the rest of the crew. What happened next happened way too much, way too quick. I remember feeling like I had crashed into a war zone, military personnel had appeared out of nowhere, armed with man-size rifles. Explosions were happening a few feet away, leaving smoke to cloud the entire scene – You see, when explosions happen at such close range, you don’t really get the time to tell the difference between a tear gas shell or a bomb. In your head, you’re pretty much dead. Someone from among the ladies decided it was time to rush back to safety and around forty of us ran for the doors, back again into the masjid.
I remember feeling my heart sinking as all of us fell down, like a deck of cards, on top of one another at the doors. As all of us helplessly tried to find our feet, I could feel Mom behind me, holding on as hard as she could. I will never forget the rush of emotion I felt as a tear gas shell exploded right near me, covering my right arm in burns – a reminder that would serve me for the rest of my life for the plight of the Palestinians.
That moment changed my life.
In between constant recitations of the Shahadah (There is no God but Allah, and Prophet Muhammad pbuh is His messenger), I asked Allah swt to give me one chance to increase my Ilm (Knowledge) so that I could die as a better Muslim. It seems impossible now that I was able to juggle so many fears in those few seconds – of not having said goodbye to my family, of not having completed my journey and worst of all, of not being prepared to meet my Creator. For if I had died then, what would I have answered to the Lord on how I had wasted my time by not having learned the Quran the way it was supposed to have been learned?
Truly he is Al-Mujeeb, the One who responds for miraculously, we found our way back to the Masjid. You have to be there to experience the kind of Muslim brotherhood that the Almighty repeatedly commanded us to observe. We spend hours here fighting about Mujahid and Sunni, about the Prophet Saw’s birthday and many other insignificant issues. It’s just sad to see the cold faces when you enter into a Masjid, absurd how the very same people that claim to love the Rasulullah Saw forget to follow the very sunnah of smiling and greeting everyone.
But, here, was I being embraced by sister after sister – each one proudly stating that my hasanat would be increased and inshaAllah, those scars would shield me from the hell-fire. (I seek refuge from ever having to step there in the first place) Another bunch of sisters were outside yelling “AllahuAkbar”! (Allah is great) at the top of their voices. Their level of imaan would make one cringe and doubt one as being a hypocrite (May Allah protect us all). In midst of all of this confusion, a 12 year old girl administered first-aid to me. Apparently, they have a regular team there as every Friday, it’s a practice to provide some form of entertainment to scare away the believers.
My father was right in the scene of the action, he was directed to move at point blank range. He was shaken by the powerlessness of the Palestinian side, it was (and is) the war between one of the biggest military powers in the world vs a bunch of stones/footwear. Yes, you read it right, these guys were hurling your ordinary bathroom slippers and backyard stones against military weaponry. A group of Palestinians had encircled him and literally said “You are under our protection now, we will fight for you”. *Brotherhood Alert* They say that the relation of the Shahadhah is thicker than blood, and true it is for why else would men that had never met my father, fight for their lives for his protection?SubhanAllah!
I have to especially mention our tour guide, Ata who took the risk of plunging right into the scene to try gather our group when we were dispersed in all directions. He kept coming back to me to make sure I was doing fine. Now that’s called some serious hospitality.
I had almost lost my camera in the fall, but SubhanAllah! prayers later, our guide asked us to check at the lost – and – found centre and there it was, intact. You would expect it to be stolen by somebody because hundreds walked past the area. Palestinians are amazing people, mashaAllah. I still remember a 6 year-old-girl who spoke very little English but said “I love you” till we left sight of each other!
I was met by the Minister of Health of Palestine, who assured me of any assistance, if required. There were 7 serious injuries that day. And then he said – We are doing this not for us, but for you too. It is for Muslims, so realize that this fight is also your’s’.
That night, my Uncle could hardly sleep as he counted 17 explosions in the distance. When we bid adieu to the place, just looking at the Dome of the Rock struck fear into most of our hearts’, for much as we joked about each one’s escapade in the days to come, that moment changed something in everybody.
For a Palestinian, this is daily life. Kids run around armed personnel, as they beg tourists “Give me one dollar, please”. I had uncontrollable tears in my eyes, as I thought about how helpless they are. No jobs, little security, homes that can be snatched away in the blink of an eye. Every Palestinian family has had the death of atleast one member, and lasting injuries.
This is to remind you of how lucky you are to have the safety of your homes, the joy of roaming around the streets, fearless and free. To remind you that no matter how bad your day can get, you have a family to go back to, a comforting meal to pacify you, a healthy body that can be and should be submitted for the worship of your Lord, the Most Merciful. It is to remind you that every time you pray for yourself, you also pray for them – Those who are sleeplessly engaged in battle, ready to die in the protection of our deen. May Allah bless them, reward them abundantly in the dunya and Akhirah and elevate their ranks on the day of judgement. May Allah make them among those who receive their book of deeds in the right hands and make their audits easy.
May Allah bless them with Jannathul Firdous. And bless us with their company.